Major Jennings stood on the Bloomfield Avenue, in blocks away from five stores.
He remembers how crowded he was, like the city's annual parade on the Fourth of July, except September. It recalls the red, white and blue flags written in the words: "Montclair man on the moon".
And then as a 12-year-old child, he recalls this feeling.
"I knew it was something great," he said.
And then he saw it. A man that Montclair swam across the streets: Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.
After the success of the Apollo 11 mission, Aldrin returned home to a parade of magnificent proportions. Everyone wanted to look at the moon.
"It was prestigious to have someone from our community who is another person walking in the moon," said Jennings.
In fact, the mayor of Montclair, Matthew Carter, declared this "the greatest day in the life of our city."
Aldrin's footprint in his home town remains 38,000. There's a board that marks the home where he grew up at Princeton Place. There is a collection of newspaper clippings that celebrate his missions that are beautifully stored in the library.
Then there are stories.
The executive body, who grew up four kilometers from Aldrin, continued to work in a company that sent US flag to the moon. A policeman who played a football high school with Aldrin and followed him after a mile route.
And Jennings, who 50 years after watching Aldrina, down the Avenue of Bloomfield, is now assistant director of the Buzz Aldrin Middle School (renamed from Mount Hebron in 2016).
"The biggest example for our students is here; you have a person from our district, who probably exceeded everyone's expectations. Kids can identify themselves with this, "Jennings said. Both of them together with Aldrin attended school.
"When you can identify with someone who has done something big and sat in the same classrooms, walked in the same halls, used the same lounges, ate in the same lawnmowers, feel good and say," why not me? «
At school, a generation of teachers and administrators, many of them who lived in Montclair all their lives remember the gathering around small televisions (mostly black and white) in order to watch the local hero on the Moon on July 20, 1969. A new generation of students who were not living during the moon landing learn Aldrin 50 years ago in a completely new way.
"Much has changed humanity," said 14-year-old Sylvie Wurmser, an eight-day student at Buzz Aldrin High School. "It's a great impression that he went to our school and we can know that someone so local made such a big difference."
"He talks a lot about us too," said Edie Koehlert, eighth grade.
Aldrin was born in Montclair in 1930, where he attended Edgemont and Mount Hebron (now Buzz Aldrin Middle) and graduated from Montclair High in 1947. Prior to that, Mount Hebron was attuned to the interest in science and technology.
Montclair was at that time very suburban with a much more open space, said history professor Leslie Wilson. While Montclair maintained its size, diversity and tree streets, it became much more liberal, much more developed, and the transplant for Manhattan and Brooklyn transplants.
"It has become a much more cosmopolitan city, but it has become a leader in New Jersey in terms of leadership for other cities," said Wilson, a history professor at Montclair State University.
Before the astronaut Aldrin was Aldrin, he was a star student and athlete. In high school he was "most likely to succeed". Aldrin recalls his achievements in the field of polar arches and football. Eventually he went to West Point and joined the Air Forces. He flew 66 combat missions in Korea and obtained a doctorate. and was later accepted into the space program.
He walked into the universe as an astronaut on the Gemini deck 12 in 1966, and three years later he stood on the moon, gloriously stepped onto his surface immediately after the commander of the mission, Neil Armstrong, and marveled at the "magnificent desolation" of the lunar landscape.
In many respects, the return of Aldrin to Earth proved to be the beginning of a more difficult mission. Minus the structure of the army and NASA, Aldrin said, he argued with depression and alcoholism, and a loss of direction. His efforts to overcome these demons, which he achieved in the late seventies, was written in the autobiography of 2010 titled "Magnificent Desolation: a Long Way Home from the Moon".
Today, Aldrin, who is 89 years old, lives in Florida and advocates the cause of space travel, especially on Mars. Representatives did not return to him on a request for an interview. On the day of the Montclair parade in 1969 everything was thrown into the victory of Apollo 11. Even in the midst of fame and glory Aldrin did not forget where he was from.
In a press report from 1969, when he returned to Montclair, Aldrin, when he responded to a sign that thanked him for putting Montclair in the moon, said: "This has been wrong. Montclair gave Buzz in the moon. "
Days before the start of summer holidays, Buzz students Aldrina Bena gathered in a school auditorium to watch the 90-minute documentary Apollo 11 on a mission led by Armstrong and pilots Aldrin and Michael Collins.
The pupils were intrigued. They were asked about the calculations of the fuel, the size of the spaceship, and what were the G-forces (force of gravity).
"Raising is quite intense," explained Daniel Taylor, STEM school coordinator (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). "G-forces are what you feel when you are on the slide and moving in a circle and feel that you have squeezed against your chair. These guys at the take-off were probably real and could not move any part of their body."
Taylor, who has been teaching at school for 10 years, says that talking about Aldrin's articles becomes enthusiastic about the students.
"For them they are more interested in how you came to the moon? And how else is the space trip? And for this to recognize science, technology and engineering and mathematics. Without one of these you can not do, "he said.
For Sylvie, the real world connection is tangible. Aldrin met in the sixth grade when she attended school during the ceremony.
"We were shocked because we are in this school and even more shocked because we are in a room with a celebrity astronaut," she said. "It sounds so cool, just to be a pioneer of civilization."
Growing up in a politically divided and technologically oriented time, some students find it difficult to represent the unity that they have brought to Aldrin's space mission and the idea of attractive crowds gathering around small televisions across the country.
"So we are now divided. At that time, people went out of their homes to watch, or they would multiply around the television to watch. We have more devices at a given moment, so there would be no place where everything would go on and all together, which is sad, "said Edie.
Maddox Camacho said that he did not know much about Aldrin until he watched the movie.
"That makes me feel a bit special," he said.
For some long-term residents, renaming the school – or anything – according to Aldrin is too long.
"Inspiring individuals can not be translated into the action of city leaders," said Mark Porter, former editor of the Montclair Times. Porter advocated for a long time to name Aldrin.
But even without titles, Aldrin's legacy still felt.
"For many young people, this was a tendency," Porter said.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, Montclair plans to announce Buzz Aldrina Day, a representative said. Buzz Aldrin Middle School said that children want to learn about Aldrin and Apollo 11 before the summer holidays.
"When they return home from the summer, they will hear it on the news, and I want to have a reference framework for what it meant," said Jill Sack. The school wants to promote more space education in the coming years.
For many children, however, they may be their best resource among staff, some still remember that day.
Jim Zarrilli, a paraprofessional at school, said he listened to the moon landing on the radio when he was 21 years old on the shore.
"Time is taking place and people who remember to become less and far away from them," said Zarrilli. "There are not too many people living here for 71 years. When it avoids an event, it is less and less reminiscent of this. "
Karen Yi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or further Facebook.
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