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The Events

Buzz Aldrin
Charlie Duke
Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin

Men From Earth
Photo Credits Mine

July 1989 was the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.   To coincide with that anniversary Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin authored a book titled Men From Earth. In June of 1989, Dr. Aldrin appeared at Taylor's Bookstore in Addison, Texas to promote his book.

I read about the appearance and book signing in the newspaper.  My friend Andy Sheppard and I made plans to attend the event.   It was scheduled for the early evening probably around 6 PM.

Andy and I left work early that day to ensure that we got a good spot in line at the book signing.  I think we must have gotten over to the bookstore at around 3 PM.  There were a few people in line at this point, but it was less than ten.   Andy and I assumed our position in line.  My girlfriend Mary would be joining us at around 5:30.

Mary and I had been only dating since Easter, but we were very close.   Mary did not understand what the entire hubbub was about with an astronaut.  After all she saw them washing their cars in their driveways in Houston when she was a child.  It was no big deal to Mary.  It was however an opportunity for her and I to spend more time together.  That was enough motivation for her to come over to the signing after work.

5:30 arrived and Mary found Andy and me in line for the signing.  She was happy with our position, because it was in the cookbook section of the store.  Cookbooks were some of her favorite books.  Waiting for Aldrin would not be a hardship for Mary.

While we were there in line, we struck up a conversation with the person behind us.  His name was Mark Shelton.  Mark was about the same age as we were.  We learned that like us he was a real space enthusiast.  He showed a book that he had brought with him.  That book was The History of Manned Spaceflight.  It was a nice book and I always wanted to add one to my collection.  What was unbelievable about Mark's copy was that he had dozens if not hundreds of astronaut autographs in it.

He told us some of the stories about how he had met these people.  One story in particular resonated with me.  That was his story about meeting Charlie Duke in Duke's own living room.  He had just called Duke up and arranged a meeting.  This story resonated, because Mary had been trying to do that same thing for me.  She had not been having a lot of success, but from Mark's story we gained new hope.

Another thing that Mark told us about was the upcoming 25th anniversary activities planned at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  The plans sounded great and we would make sure to keep an eye out for the details.  We exchanged contact information with Mark so that we could stay in touch.

By 6:00 PM I would guess there were at least 300 people in line for the book signing.  It was an incredible turnout.  In fact it was probably the best turn out that Taylor’s bookstore had up to that point.  The line wound all the way throughout the bookstore.  That in itself was amazing.  I felt good that Andy and I had gotten to the store early, even thought it meant waiting in line for 3 hours.

A brief announcement over the store loud speaker announced that Buzz Aldrin had arrived.  Spontaneous applause erupted from the people in line.  The atmosphere felt electrified to me.  I could not believe that I was in the same room with the second man to walk on the Moon.   I had dreamed about meeting him since 1969 and here 25 years later it was finally going to happen.

Andy went in line before me.  I had given my camera to him and asked him to take a photo of me with Aldrin.  Andy got up to the desk with Aldrin.  He got a book and a photo signed.

I was next.  I handed the book to the lady assisting Aldrin for his signature.  I also handed her a lithograph of Buzz saluting the flag on the moon.  Aldrin signed both of them.  Mary got a book and a lithograph of the Apollo 11 Crew signed for me.

I wanted to shake his hand.  I struggled to get the works to come out from my vocal cords.  Resembling a mouse, I meekly sputtered out, “Can I shake your hand?”  Aldrin smiled, put down his pen and reached across the table to shake my hand.  Andy captured that handshake with a fabulous photo.

It is difficult to convey how shaking Aldrin’s hand felt for me.  I don't want to sound sacrilegious but it was as if I had just shaken the hand of God.  So high up on a pedestal had my hero worship placed these men that I never would have dreamed of ever meeting one of them.  After the signatures we stood off to the side for a while and marveled as other people came through the line.

The mission was accomplished.  I was thrilled to have met Aldrin and to receive his autograph.  Mary was thrilled because I bought her a Martha Stewart Entertaining cookbook.

Andy, Mary, and I wanted to celebrate our success.  Across the street from the bookstore was a decent seafood restaurant.  We went over there for dinner.  While we were talking the subject of Charlie Duke came up.  I will save the rest of this story for when I tell the story about Charlie Duke.  Follow the Charlie Duke link to get to that story.

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UPDATED : August 11, 2009
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