On February 20, 1962 my sister was having a birthday party. I thought it was to celebrate John Glenn’s Friendship 7 flight. My grandmother Froehlich was astronaut-happy. She loved space. She spent most of her life in West Palm Beach, Florida, from the time she married my grandfather in 1923 to her death in 1994. During those years, she said she only saw traffic along Southern Blvd, near the entry of the airport, come to a complete halt – willingly. That was the day in 1962 when John Glenn flew in on Air Force One with then President John F. Kennedy. People knew they were coming in, and lined both sides of the highway to watch John Glenn. At the time, she said, Kennedy had them put the top down on the limo, so people could see John Glenn. Another time, not long after that, she had a call from her older sister. Ester May’s (very gay) son T-Jay operated a fishing boat up around Smyrna Beach. If they could get up there by a certain time, and if my grandmother could behave herself, she might a chance to meet John Glenn. She did not get to meet him, but she stood on the pier, gawking at him.
It was the day that changed my life, setting on the current path. Contrast the coverage of the two launches.
John Glenn was my first hero. Unlike so many heroes, his feet were never made of clay. He was a true hero, very aware of his responsibility. He still exemplifies what a true American hero should be. He codified the astronaut legacy for NASA. In Korea, as a fighter pilot, Ted Williams was his wingman. He always said that Williams was the better pilot of the two. They were/are the two greatest heroes of my life.