Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Open Letter to the Family of Neil Armstrong

First of all, allow me to express my deepest condolences at your loss and my apologies for intruding upon your lives at this time of tragedy. Mr. Armstrong was a private man, and it is understandable that he would wish for his memorial service to be a small affair limited to only close friends and family. Certainly, such an intimate service is needed by those who knew him as a husband, father, grandfather, and friend, far more than a public service is needed by those of us who only knew him as a symbol of the combined efforts of the multitudes of people who worked on the Apollo program.

Mr. Armstrong often said that they deserved as much credit for the success of the Apollo landing as he did. I would not presume to debate him on something of which he was an expert on. I would like to ask, however, that you agree to allow there to be a state funeral for Mr. Armstrong after the family has had their private service.

I realize that this is a great deal to ask of you who are grieving at this time. I also know that the thought of standing in front of news cameras and reporters from all over the world must seem like an overwhelming nightmare at this time.

Allow me to offer this suggestion, however, if the family does not attend such an event, this will force the global media, who can't seem to let even a few seconds to go by without having someone talking, to reach out to those people who worked on Apollo whom might not otherwise be noticed by the media.

Without the spectacle of a public service, the media is liable to pay scant attention to Apollo at a time when we should be thinking about the men and women, many of whom are no longer with us, who made Man's voyage to the Moon possible. But by having a state funeral, the media will turn its eyes back towards Apollo, and with the family quietly staying away, those who worked on Apollo, in the control center, the design departments, and the assembly lines, will be given a chance to speak before a global audience, perhaps for the first time. They can describe what it was like to work on the project and what the program meant to them, as well as any memories they might have of Mr. Armstrong. Additionally, instead of having politicians, fellow astronauts, or celebrities speak, you can request that only those people who worked behind the scenes at Apollo, be allowed to speak.

Through this moment, we, as a species, can remember not simply one man, but all those who rode with him, in spirit, to that moment which so captured the world's attention in wonder.

Again, I extend my deepest condolences to you during this time and my apologies for intruding upon you now.


Brian Drake

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