In honor of the passing of Neil Armstrong, I rediscovered the speech that William Safire wrote for Richard Nixon in case Apollo 11 ended in tragedy.
Safire writes that “As July 20, 1969 approached -- the day the astronauts aboard Apollo XI were scheduled to set foot on the moon -- White House speech writers excitedly submitted drafts of a triumphant statement and talking points for the president to use in communicating live with the first earthlings on a another celestial body. “
But the euphoria was interrupted by a call from Frank Borman -- the veteran astronaut -- who was the liaison with the White House. “You want to be thinking of some alternative postures for the President, in the event of mishaps on the Apollo 11.”
Safire wrote the following which happily remained undelivered.
“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”
Thank you Neil and William. You are both missed.