“A flag bearer … without borders” – farewell to Neil Armstrong


Credit : AP/file                                        Neil Armstrong

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

— “High Flight” – Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF

Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 astronaut who died Saturday at 82, was a reluctant American icon who often described himself as a  “nerdy engineer”.  I am sure he would have hated every other tribute which will be given in his honor, as people knew him would often recall him complaining. Countless number of high schoolers/teenagers/students across the globe who would give away there lunch money to buy his stamp cards, post cards or wall papers with Neil Armstrong on them, were literally thrown into believing something which no one had given them hope for – reaching the far and beyond.

                                                   Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

My uncle who was born on Monday 21st July, 1969, the day Apollo 11 astronauts at 02:39 UTC  opened the hatch, and  began their descent to the lunar surface. He often tells me the stories about the experience of witnessing the first lunar landing and the mystic excitement surrounding the news in India. That day was a moment of calmness in turbulent decade of this beleaguered country at the backdrop of civil rights movement and a strangling war in Vietnam.

 His family letter includes,” While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.” Further including this –                 “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil  and give him a wink.

As Dr.Tyson (another hero of mine who is a champion of promoting the idea and necessity space exploration) mentioned in his eulogy, “Neil Armstrong was the spiritual repository of spacefaring dreams & ambitions. In death, a little bit of us all dies with him“.  and also “Possibly the only positive event in the history for which everybody remember where they were when it occurred.”

Whenever my friend asks me,” Why? what happened ? Is it that special ? “, he already knows what I am habituated to say, ” It’s an Armstrong special ! “. Everyone who heard about him have anecdotes to tell, short stories to blabber about the special event that he was part of. His name has became an enormously special adjective for many.

He was someone who will be always remembered as long as there is a history to be written – a history of glorious achievements – achievements beyond limitations for the Hero beyond borders !

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