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'One small step' still resonates: locals remember moon landing

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They were words people across the world waited for with bated breath: "That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind."

Winnipegger Gerry Suski remembers waiting anxiously for what astronaut Neil Armstrong would say as he took his first steps on the moon.

"Everyone wanted to know what his first words would be," said the 67-year-old aviation enthusiast and volunteer at the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg.

Neil Armstrong, the man who coined the iconic phrase as the first man on the moon, died Saturday at the age of 82.

The moon landing was a moment few forget and it was definitely one that stuck in Suski's mind.

"Everyone was around the television and you had to stay up to watch," said Suski, who was 24 when the first moon landing happened on July 20, 1969. Armstrong took that first step on the moon just before 10 p.m. Manitoba time.

"It was a pretty famous time," he said. "This is the first time anyone has set their foot on any other surface than earth."

For Sandra Mulholland, also 67, Armstrong's words rang only too true at the time. The day Armstrong landed on the moon, it was the day Mulholland, her husband, and her children immigrated to Canada from England.

"It was a small step for our youngest child, but it was a giant step for our family," Mulholland said with a laugh Sunday just after she'd flown into Winnipeg's Richardson International Airport.

As a 13-year-old boy watching the moon landing in his St. James home, now 56-year-old Ed Sliwinski said Armstrong's journey helped fuel his own ambitions to fly.

"It was pretty spectacular," Sliwinski said. "That's a pretty big thing to put your foot down on the moon."

Sliwinski, visiting the aviation museum on Sunday afternoon, is now a pilot for Air Canada.

After watching the moon landing early in the morning on TV, Sliwinski remembers going outside and looking up.

"I remember going out there and looking up at the moon and thinking there are people walking up there," he said.

Sliwinski said Armstrong was always a man to whom he looked up.

"I remembered how much I admired the guy, not only for his achievements but for his modesty," he said.

A Korean War combat pilot, naval aviator, and later a test pilot, Armstrong was noted for his humility and for avoiding the public spotlight.

In a rare public appearance in 2000, Armstrong said: "I am, and ever will be, a white-sock, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer."

Bev Shafirka, 66, remembered Sunday how in awe she was of the whole event in 1969. She was driving back from Grand Beach to Winnipeg on July 20.

"It was such a dark night," she remembered. "We were driving back from the lake and the moon was so bright. We looked up and thought 'There are people up there right now.' "

Armstrong died in Cincinnati. He had gone through heart surgery early in August and died from complications from cardiovascular procedures, his family said.

 

-- With files from the Los Angeles Times

jennifer.ford@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2012 A4

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