Readers share their memories of the Apollo 11 moon landing

The Post asked readers to write in with their tales of where they were on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. From Yankee Stadium to the Mets locker room, from summer jobs to Vietnam, from foreign countries to new citizens, here’s a selection of some of the memories — and how proud they were of the moment.

Ron Swoboda, outfielder, the 1969 Mets:

“We were trying to get back home from Montreal at the All-Star break. In the All-Star game, you get three days between series. We had played a pretty good series against the Expos. We won the series two games to one. Normally, we would have gotten on our little United charter plane, but we had mechanical problems. We didn’t take off and went upstairs to the lounge. That’s where we saw Neil Armstrong take his giant leap for mankind. The irony here is that Armstrong is laying footprints on the moon and we can’t get back to New York. It was so captivating to all of us.

“It was pretty heavy. I was super interested. The whole notion of flight itself and outer space captured my imagination.

“Back in 1965, my rookie year, they took us to the Houston Astrodome. It was pretty special. We got to meet the Mercury guys. John Glenn. We were there as special guests. They practically had to restrain me. I had a million questions. What it felt like to sit on some rock and go blast! I’m claustrophobic.

I just admired those guys. They were all fighter pilots, all test pilots. As a baseball player, people think you’re hot stuff. I looked at these people as a whole lot of levels above that.”

(A few days after the moonwalk, Swoboda remembers Ed Charles, who died in 2018, saying, “If we can land on the moon, we can win the World Series.” And the Mets did.)

Sherman Law, 62, Houston:

Sherman Law was a 12-year-old boy attending the July session at Camp Champions in Marble Falls, Texas, along with the sons of two of the Apollo 11 astronauts. “A couple of days before the moon landing, a blank roll of adding-machine tape was circulated around the camp and all the campers, counselors and camp personnel signed their names on it. The camp went from 12 and 13 to first-graders. Each cabin had 12 boys. We all got excited. This tape was then put into a capsule and sealed.

A helicopter came a day or so before liftoff and picked up the boys and took them to the airport to travel to Florida for the launch. I heard the helicopter. I saw it fly overhead. The capsule was given to one of their fathers (I think it was Buzz Aldrin) and it was placed on the moon during one of the moonwalks. That’s what they told us. We thought, ‘My name’s on the moon. I can’t wait.’ I’m just a 12-year-old kid. I don’t think they would have lied to us. This was before fake news. People weren’t in the mode to mislead then.”

John Piechota, 77, Vesta, NY:

Piechota was an aviation-supply officer with the US Navy in 1969. He set sail on the USS Hornet from Long Beach, Calif., to prepare for the recovery of the Apollo 11 crew and capsule in the Pacific Ocean. “We were there about three or four weeks before the landing, about 1,500 miles south-southwest of Oahu, bringing on the crew from NASA as well as ABC News crews,” Piechota, 77, tells The Post. “On that morning, President Nixon was there. It was overcast that day. We never saw the parachutes. The ship itself was over the horizon. That was the only disappointment. The seas were rather rough that day. The frogmen had to have on their decontamination suits before they opened the hatch of the capsule. One by one, the astronauts were raised into a basket and into the helicopter.

“They came out of their Hazmat suits and walked onto the carrier deck and down to the isolation chamber. Shortly after, we could see them through the window of the local chamber. That was an exciting moment.”

Joseph Ciolino, 65, Manhattan:

“I was watching the moon landing with my father, grandfather and cousin at my grandparents’ summer bungalow on Staten Island. My clearest memory was of my grandfather (born in 1886) who came to America in 1906, never learned to read or write, but loved America and had a great life, saying that it was a joke, that it was impossible.

“ ‘How do I know they’re on the moon?’ he said with a thick Italian accent. ‘They could be on Coney Island!’ ”

Joel Schonfeld, 72, Roslyn, NY:

“The summer of ’69 I was training for the Army infantry in the red clay of Fort Polk, La. So hot at night that we slept with wet towels on us.

“When the time came to watch the moon landing my spit & polish 1st Sergeant announced ‘LIGHTS OUT.’

“Being the pushy New Yorker that I was, I tried to reason with him . . . ‘but they are walking ON THE MOON’

“His response . . . ‘I don’t care if they are (expletive) walking on the roof!!!!’

“So, I missed in real time the event of the century. But at least I was well rested!!!”

Maggie Willis, 77, Evans, Ga.:

“I was in my apartment in NYC and my first son was only 1 year old. I sat him on my lap and we both watched it on TV. I remember telling him that we were watching history and, even though he would not remember it, I have never forgotten how it felt to see the American flag on the surface of the moon. I was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the US in 1960 when I was 19 years old, becoming a citizen in 1969. I remember how proud I felt of my new country and knowing that my young son would be a first-generation American.”

Thomas F. Quinn, 58, Long Grove, Ill.:

“I was 8 years old at the time of the landing. My parents had just bought a new refrigerator for our home in Irving, Texas, and the box that fridge came in became my home for the next week. I was determined to live like Neil Armstrong in that box — which was really the Apollo capsule + the Luner lander all in one — in the middle of the living room. Had my meals there, slept there. There was a Crayola command panel in the front, provisions (Fritos) in the back and a window that I could watch CBS from on the black and white in my living room. Thanks dad for not letting them take the box away.”

Judith O’Brien, 60, St Louis, Mo.:

“On the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I was 10 years old and in Edinburgh, Scotland with my parents and older brother. There was a pub attached to the guest house where we were staying, so we gathered there to watch the landing. The place was packed with locals, all speaking in hushed tones, watching the hazy images on the television. My parents kept on being handed free cocktails, while my brother and I were delighted with endless sodas. The bartender, who had said nothing, suddenly blurted, ‘This is very unusual!’ My father said, ‘It’s amazing — there are men on the moon!’ The bartender shook his head. ‘Nah, it’s not that. Everyone here wants to have the honor of buying you Yanks a drink. With this crowd that is very unusual!’ ”

Janet Obzut, 70, Sea Girt, NJ:

“It was a surreal night filled with great anticipation, excitement and dread. I have relived the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon at 10:56 p.m. many times in the past 50 years. My fiancé, our families and I watched every moment knowing that as the clock ticked down to America’s proud moment, it was getting closer to the next morning which would have my husband-to-be, 1st Lieutenant Kenneth Obzut, on a plane heading for a year of service in Vietnam.

“It rained for 13 days straight in New Jersey after that. My grandmother was actually convinced that the moon landing had caused it. The fact that it didn’t rain everywhere meant nothing. I was too busy crying so it didn’t really matter. The stars aligned in our favor, and we will be married 49 years in August. Not one moon landing anniversary has passed without me remembering my experience in an emotional whirlwind. I probably will do that the rest of my life.

“I was so proud of the accomplishments of Apollo 11 and equally proud of our men and women who served in Vietnam. The former group came back to 45 days of a ‘Giant Leap’ celebration tour. The latter group had to hide from society’s scorn. God bless America. She always seems to get things right . . . finally.”

Melanie Brown, 56, Village of Sandbeach, Penn.:

“I was a six-year-old child in Hershey, Penn., when we landed on the moon.

I remember the excitement leading up to the event. We learned about it in school from a little magazine called ‘The Weekly Reader.’ I vividly remember my Dad taking me out into the back yard. It must have been pretty late on a summer night. We were standing and he pointed up at the moon and told me we were there now. I remember being surprised that I couldn’t see the astronauts. Dad had to explain how far away it really is. This is an indelible memory for me. What it symbolized to a 6-year-old is that there is no limit too far or too hard for us to overcome.”

Jim Morris, 69, Manhattan:

“I was working at an ice cream store, a summer job, the special ice cream flavor of the day/week was Lunar Cheese Cake. That evening no one came in to purchase anything. I had a small screen Black and White Sony TV with a picture fading in and out as I ate up the flavors available on earth that night.”

Peter Borghesi, 66, Ortley Beach, NJ:

“July 20th, 1969, I was 16 years old. That afternoon, my uncle took my older brother and me to see the Yankees play the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium. Of course, I knew about the astronauts and their mission but I was more excited to see the Yankees play on their home field. Bill Burbach was on the mound for the Yanks that afternoon. The game was tied 2-2 in the 8th inning when the Senators loaded the bases with one out. Things were not looking good for my team. Just then, the game was halted as Bob Sheppard, long-time Yankees public address announcer, filled the stadium with his unmistakable voice. ‘A special announcement . . . you will be happy to know that Apollo 11 has landed safely on the moon.’

“The stadium crowd cheered loudly for more than a minute. The opposing Senators stayed put on the bases. This was followed by a moment of silence and the playing of ‘America the Beautiful.’ When the game resumed, the next Senator batter hit into a double play. The inning was over and the score remained tied. I was so happy that the tempo of the inning was disrupted by the moon landing. The Yankees went on to win the game 3-2 in 11 innings.”

Neil Alan Burns, 50, Columbus, Ohio:

“Having been born on July 15th, 1969, I don’t remember anything of that day of course. But I am forever connected to it because my parents, apparently enthralled by the mission, gave me a first name of Neil, after Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11. For good measure, they gave me a middle name of Alan, for Alan Shepard, the first American to travel into space. Neil’s passing in 2012 was a melancholy day for me.”

Stanislav Votruba, 56, Morristown, NJ:

“On July 20, 1969, I was a small boy who just celebrated his 6th birthday in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

“Although it was a communist country my father was a director of a major medical device manufacturing company behind the Iron Curtain. We had privileges other did not: telephone, car and a TV. It was black and white. We were amazed that the government would broadcast the event. Family and friends crammed into a room surrounding the small TV. The moon landing was a human endeavor. I was too young to grasp the scope of such an accomplishment but I knew people landed on the moon. From then on I wound look up at the moon in the sky and wonder what it would be like to be there.

“Shortly thereafter, we escaped/defected and came to the USA and became citizens. On December 11, 1972, my family was shopping at Two Guys (a retail store in NJ), Apollo 17 touched down on the moon. The store had all the TVs on display locked to the news channel. Everyone stopped to watch.

“My father was so proud to be an American living now in the land of the free.”

Bart Cincotta, 74, Port St Lucie, Fla.

“I was getting married! They had TVs throughout the reception hall. Everyone stopped dancing to watch them walk on the moon.”

John Casey, 55, Manhattan:

“I had just turned the precocious age of 5, and vividly recall sitting with my parents in our small home in suburban Pittsburgh. . . . When the door of the capsule opened, and an anchor proudly proclaimed that the astronauts were about to step ‘onto the front porch.’ With amazement, and a tinge of shock, I turned to my parents and excitedly asked, ‘Are they on our front porch?’

“I can’t remember if I was disappointed or relieved — or both — to learn that the astronauts were not on our doorstep.”

Billy Dorsey, 67, Huntersville, NC:

“I’ll always remember coming home from my girlfriend’s house in Brooklyn and watching it with my mom. Watching her cry with such prideful tears is something that would always stay with me. This from a woman who escaped Nazi Germany with my grandparents. We had such a feeling of pride and love of our country. It didn’t matter what party you belonged to. A simpler time and life that I’m afraid are gone forever.”

Jonathan Arak, 54, Upper West Side:

“I was in the tub as a four-year-old boy. My mother, Judy, wheeled the “Big TV” of the house (a 19” Zenith black and white) into the bathroom, so I could watch the landing while I bathed!”

Ralph Burch, 68, Kinderhook, NY:

“In June 1969, I had just graduated from high school, upstate New York. Feeling great about our accomplishments, my friends and I got tickets to see The Beach Boys at the Washington Ave. Armory in Albany, the night of July 20, 1969. We had seats close to the front and the Boys sounded and looked wonderful.

“Partway through the concert, the music stopped and the concert-goers listened to the first step on the moon live.

“On that special night, we went home high on America. Our America. A giant leap for mankind. We were proud teenagers.”

Rocco Ciaburri, 61, Staten Island:

“I was camping with my family in Northern New Jersey at a place called Panther Lake. One of my friends’ father knew that the reception was going to be bad so he prepared by climbing up a very, very tall tree and put an antenna up there and then ran the cable to the television. A LOT of the other campers found out what he had done and the next thing you knew it was like 50 people had shown up. One of the fathers built a fire and us kids started cooking hot dogs on sticks, making s’mores and having a fantastic night.”

Vladimir Bass, 52, Brooklyn:

“I was only 2 years old, living with my parents in Moscow, Russia, when the Eagle landed. Of course, I don’t remember any of this, but my father told me about this later when I was old enough to understand. And following the space race, I asked my father why WE didn’t land on the moon. He said that this was very dangerous and the Soviet government was unwilling to jeopardize cosmonauts’ lives. That was a silly explanation since the Russians at that time simply did not have the technology to repeat what the Americans did. Later, with great enthusiasm, I was following Soyuz-Apollo space missions but I never stopped wondering how in the world those three guys did it.”

Craig Schwab, 64, Glendale, NY:

“As a young boy, summers were spent at my Aunt and Uncle’s house on Long Island. They had all the amenities not found in our apartment in Queens. The huge backyard pool was home to our daily festivities. During the landing on the moon in the afternoon, my Uncle turned up the volume on the stereo and we all listened to the broadcast hooping and hollering in celebration. By 10 pm, my brother and cousins were in a state of childhood frenzy. We took turns trying to look at the moon through a pair of binoculars. Every one of us swore we could see specks that convinced us we were seeing everything happening live.

“When Neil Armstrong left the capsule and descended the steps to the lunar surface, the house was packed with friends and relatives in awe of what we were witnessing. Some adults began crying as they hugged one another. My brother and cousins along with kids from the block applauded loudly. It was the first time in our lives except for New Year’s Eve we were allowed to stay up past midnight. No one slept that night at all. We were in the pool and staring up into the sky as if the world we knew had been forever changed. It was the cosmic summer that ushered in the beginning of miracles in baseball and the magic of music that became our lifetime soundtrack.”

Mike Johnson, 59, Memphis, Tenn.:

“We had been on a father-son camping trip in the Adirondacks. I was 9 years old at the time.

“It was going-home day, home at the time was Williston Park on Long Island. We packed all our gear into the station wagon and headed out.

“I don’t recall what was playing on the radio at the time, but there was one of those breaking news alerts and regular programming cut to the news.

“Sensing the magnitude of the moment, my father pulled the car over to the shoulder of the road. Then the moment and the famous words were uttered by Armstrong, I had chills and goosebumps like I had never experienced. I glanced over at my father and noticed a true first. Dad was a strong and proud man, rarely if ever showing emotion. When I glanced over at Dad I noticed watery eyes and tears . . . and at that very moment, I truly understood the magnitude of what just occurred.”

Wayne Douglas, 70, Del.

“I was in Vietnam in a bunker, listening to a small transistor radio. It was the middle of the night and just as the moon landing was to take place, we experienced a small-arms and mortar attack which only lasted a few minutes. When it was over, [Walter] Cronkite announced that there was a man on the moon. I remember thinking that the United States had figured out how to put a man on the moon, but couldn’t figure out how to extricate half a million American kids from Hell.”

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