A 1969 editorial in The Pictorial Press called the voyage of Apollo 11 the fourth most significant feat in the history of man, "surpassed only by the moment of man's creation and the birth and death of Christ."
Saturday, July 20, will mark 50 years since the world heard Neil Armstrong's famous words: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." People all over the country tuned in to see the first-ever moon landing that day in 1969, when a three-man crew successfully completed the goal proposed by President John F. Kennedy eight years earlier to put a man on the moon.
Students today are taught about Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins in school, but many local residents were able to witness the landing and still remember the day. As a 7-year-old visiting his grandparents in Muskogee, Dr. Brett Fitzgerald, professor at Northeastern State University, distinctly remembers what his grandfather told him when the landing occurred.
"I remember this like it was yesterday," he said. "It was dusk, it was dark, and my grandfather took me out into the yard there on the farm. He pointed at the moon and said, 'I can no longer say, 'no more than a man on the moon.' We have put a man on the moon, son.'"
Fitzgerald said that "no more than a man on the moon" was a common phrase people often used in reference to the possibility of - something. While adults at the time of the landing could appreciate the magnitude of the event, Fitzgerald said that was his grandfather's way of trying to make a 7-year-old understand.
"For a generation of people like myself - the baby boomers - this was the greatest feat possible," he said. "This was holding the tide back. It was something that was impossible to do, and they did it."
And 1969 was a different time. The Tahlequah Daily Press was named The Pictorial Press, and the paper's content was vastly different. Around the time of the moon landing, stories printed in the Pictorial Press included an article about a Park Hill veteran returning from the Vietnam war zone, a story advocating for the state to adopt liquor-by-the-drink laws, and a "Message From Your Doctor" titled "Mary Jane: Deadly Weed."
Television was a different animal, as well.
Fitzgerald said there wasn't much else on the tube - literally, a tube - besides the moon landing on July 20.
"Back then, we only had 2, 6 and 8," he said. "There were only three channels of television, so if you wanted to watch TV at all, that's what you were watching."
Janet and Don Stucky both remember the day of the first moon walkers. It was the summer of their sophomore year in college.
"Don was home from Stanford and we were watching it on TV at my [parents'] house with my parents," said Janet Stucky. "My dad actually went outside to look at the moon to fully grasp what was happening. We're not certain, but we think we were watching CBS."
Walter Cronkite was still working with CBS when he announced the moon landing. Norma Boren remembers Cronkite taking off his glasses in amazement, as he, she, and the rest of the world were astonished by the Apollo mission.
"He was so amazed that they landed safely," said Boren. "Of course, everyone just gave a sigh of relief. It was all so tense around the television set, watching it. Everybody was afraid they would not make it, or they would crash, or they wouldn't be able to lift off. That was the scariest part, when they tried to lift off of the moon to get back into space."
It's been more than 45 years since NASA has sent an astronaut to the moon. However, talk of reaching the planet Mars has been circulating for the past couple of decades, so those who weren't born or were too young to remember the moon landing might have a chance to see similarly significant event.
But until then, Fitzgerald said folks can replace the old "no more than a man on the moon" phrase with "no more than a man on Mars."