Central Floridians reflect on where they were when Eagle landed

The Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr., president of the Orange County branch of the NAACP

"I was in Tallahassee, in grad school [at Florida A&M University], coming out of class when I heard other students talking about it. A man walking on the moon — you had to believe it, but it sounded so preposterous. When I saw it on TV, it was such a thrill. [Armstrong] had this little skip. It was a very, very proud moment, but there was also a lot of skepticism. It was inconceivable. There was some skepticism that what we were seeing couldn't be real."

Sara Van Arsdel, director of the Orange County Regional History Center

"I was in summer school, in northern Virginia, taking a music-theory class. It was Garfield High School. The teacher — because we could not pay attention to anything that was going on — brought in a TV and we watched the rocket take off. I just couldn't believe it. I remember feeling like such an incredible witness to such an incredible event. Then ... in our living room we watched Neil Armstrong take his first steps. When he spoke so softly in that gentle voice, "One small step for man," I was just transfixed. I really was. I thought, 'Please, God, let him be OK.' It really was unforgettable."

Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic

"I had just finished my first NBA season. I was the business manager of the [ Philadelphia] 76ers. ... However, right in that period, I was contacted by the Chicago Bulls, who were interested in interviewing me to become the general manager of the Bulls. So, as thrilling as the moon landing was, my world was so inflamed at that point that I probably did not concentrate and focus as much as I should have on that breathtaking event. I appreciate it a whole lot more now. In fact, I use that whole period in one of my talks on leadership — primarily vision and communicating in leadership."

Mildred Fernandez, Orange County commissioner

"Oh, I remember exactly where I was when that happened. I was in Puerto Rico, and we were all watching it on TV at a friend's house. I would never forget that. To me, to be able to watch that, was just so amazing. To see this nation, and what we've been able to do, is unbelievable. In the back of your mind, you say to yourself, 'I am just so fortunate to be able to witness this.'"

Geraldine Thompson, state representative

"It was my junior year at the University of Miami majoring in business and journalism. I remember reacting to the movements. The astronauts were kind of bouncing or floating. My reaction was the whole notion of weightlessness and a totally different environment than on Earth. ... I remember there was a lot of skepticism in the African-American community. A lot of people thought it was a hoax — surely these were not people on the moon. They must be in the desert in Arizona."

— Compiled by David Damron, Jeff Kunerth, Elizabeth Maupin and Josh Robbins of the Sentinel staff

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