Every family has embarrassing stories of moments when various members weren’t at their best. Because I spent a lot of years in the public eye and ear of the mass media, I’ve contributed a few.

Like the time I stepped on Neil Armstrong’s foot.

Yeah, that Neil Armstrong. Yeah, that foot.

I was a young reporter at WTOP Radio-TV in Washington, D.C. in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Completely over my small town Oregon head in journalistic capabilities and training. But, with the arrogance and confidence of youth, I felt totally at home.

Until, that is, the day editor Fred Farrar threw me a battery-operated tape recorder and told me to get my butt down to the Smithsonian Museum for a presentation of moon rocks by the Apollo crew who had scooped then up during their July, 1969 trip.

Now there are moments in your life when you are destined to mess up. This was one of mine. I don’t remember the tortured drive downtown. Partly because the D.C. traffic and the screwy design of the road system there makes most crosstown drives torturous. But soon I stood with shaking hands – unsure whether the batteries in my recorder were good – in one of the Smithsonian exhibit halls with dozens of other media. And dignitaries. Lots and lots of dignitaries.

This is a good point to break into the story to tell you of one of my quirks. Over the many years I was in the media, I interviewed presidents – cabinet officials – heads of state – celebrities and a host of famous – and infamous people. Many were one-on-one interviews where there were actual conversations. Sometimes. For some reason, celebrity and notoriety have never bothered me. Not a moment. Not one nervous twitch. Until then.

I mean, these were the guys who went to the moon! Two of them actually went up – or down – there and walked on that dusty surface where today – 43 years later – their footprints are still as pristine as the day they were made. These were THOSE GUYS!

That day, Mission Commander Armstrong – Yes, that Armstrong – was to hand over a rock about the size of a softball to the president of the Smithsonian. Whoever he was. After all, he didn’t go to the moon.

As the TV camera guys crowded in for a tighter shot of the rocks, I stepped aside. Professional courtesy. Something I never did again after that day.

Because I had just tromped on Neil Armstrong’s highly polished class “A” uniform shoe! Yes, that shoe! I mean, my Tony Lama riding heel scarred that sucker side to side. He muttered something and stood his ground while I began looking for a hole in the perfectly poured floor of the Smithsonian.

I found no escape. And I was fixed by Armstrong’s stern, military-trained gaze. Consequently, I have no idea – absolutely no memory – of what happened next. I can’t remember a word of the voice report I did on-air live within minutes on WTOP Non-Stop News. A report listened to by everyone in the nation’s capital. They heard it. And later on CBS Radio from coast to coast. They heard it. I didn’t.

I never saw Neil Armstrong or the Apollo crew members again. At least in person. They have all popped up in various media again and again over the years. And I have silently thought many, many times about the miraculous trip they made. How they did it. What it meant to an entire world.

But, I’ve got to confess. Whenever that closeup shot of Armstrong’s footprint on the moon comes on the TV screen, I actually see a mark – side to side – and relive that moment. And cringe.

I mean – those guys walked on the moon! And I walked on one of them!

God speed, Neil Armstrong. I hope you’re not still mad.

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