Apollo 11: Landing on the Red Carpet
On this 50th Anniversary of the moon walk, we thought it would be fun to compare two impressions of kids on that day half a century ago. Last week we shared our Executive Director’s memory of the moon walk, a 5-year old’s perspective in 1969 Oklahoma. This week, we asked our Director of Latino Theatre, Jesús Castaños Chima, to write his memory of that same day, from his childhood perspective in 1969 Mexico.
by Jesús Castaños-Chima
That day was unforgettable for everyone in my elementary school class. We were in second grade and that morning they took us to Diana cinema to see the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. I don't know if it was live or pre-recorded but in that moment, we were too excited to care. For many of us it was our first time visiting a cinema. Our school belonged to one of the slums of the city, with dirt roads and mostly inhabited by people newly arrived from the towns of the mountains and the coast. The houses were simple, with corrugated roofs and dirt floors and no running water or electricity.
That great event would be recorded in our memory for many different reasons. Holding hands, boys and girls, we boarded the old bus that would take us on this exciting excursion. We arrived early and the teachers instructed us to take our seats but our excitement was so great that despite their efforts, they couldn't keep us in our carefully assigned places. There were so many novelties that we could hardly contain ourselves: a huge and impressive building, the air conditioning, the cushioned seats, the popcorn and sodas with a straw, the large red carpet, the immense white screen like milk with beautiful, long red curtains suspended along on the sides. Too many things to absorb in such a short time for our virgin minds. But what excited us the most was the impressive red carpet that we ran all around like little animals in a field. For many of us, this was the first time we'd seen carpet.
Finally it was time to witness the historic event. The lights went out and the commercials that preceded the presentation began. For a moment we were all mesmerized by the spectacular images but after a while, taking advantage of the darkness, we started running around on that great big red carpet that attracted us like a magical magnet. Some of us had no restraint and we jumped up on the stage at the bottom of the big screen and from there we threw ourselves onto the majestic carpet. The teachers and the cinema staff tried uselessly to control us. I think the only time I was still and attentive to what was happening on the screen was when Neil Armstrong's feet touched the lunar surface.
The impression this event left on us was so great that I remember having left the theater walking like astronauts alongside all my friends. And even now, at 57 years of age, I keep having recurring dreams where my memories are blurred and I see the Apollo 11 landing on an infinite red carpet, only this time, I am the one that is dressed as an astronaut and am tracking those first steps on the moon while my friends jump out from the spaceship behind me onto a wonderful scarlet sea. Maybe at that time I did not understand the magnitude of those first steps and what they represented for humanity, but the image of that extraordinary human being walking for the first time on the moon was more than enough to remain fixed in my mind for the rest of my life.