Yesterday I crossed off a bucket list item that I didn't even know I had.
Salt Lake Comic Con's "FanX" (Fan Experience) began Thursday and runs through Saturday. I haven't been overly enthused about it, being a bit burned out on everything, based on what's been going on in my life the past 6 months.
OK, that's not entirely true. I would have loved to have met Gillian Anderson, but didn't want to pay THAT much for the privilege. And Peter Davison was my "second" Doctor. He would have made the fourth of the Doctors I've been able to meet. [Aside: I actually did get to meet him and was able to tell him that, while he was my second Doctor, his was my first regeneration. I also complimented him on a little-known role and he showed pleasant surprise at my knowledge. Even better: all four of the Doctors I've met are genuinely nice, kind men, the kind I wouldn't mind meeting in a pub over lunch. That warms my heart. End aside.]
But I was ready to skip this Con. Just didn't have the funds or the time (or the inclination) to go this time 'round. There also really weren't any celebrities that I wanted to meet (that I hadn't met before) that warranted laying out money and time that I didn't have. That is, until they announced a True American Hero.
That word gets thrown around a lot. Sports figures get called "heroes." I've even heard movie stars and various other celebrities called "heroes." I personally think people mean "role model" rather than "hero," although most of the time that shouldn't be correct either.
But this man... there's no other word to describe him.
Dr. "Buzz" Aldrin.
Yeah. "Second Man on the Moon" Buzz Aldrin. One of seven living men to have walked on another world. A man who rode one of the world's largest explosions into orbit not just once, but twice.
I missed the moon landing by about 14 months. But my brothers remember it. My parents remembered it. I heard about it all of my childhood. The stores were still filled with Mercury-, Gemini-, and Apollo Mission toys when I was young. I had an original cardboard poster of this image on my wall when I was growing up. I wish I knew where it was; probably long lost to the local dump. I chalk that one up to an ignorant, self-centered, uncaring, and callous series of teenage years. But he was always a hero. All three of these men were.
Once I knew he was coming, I couldn't help myself. I spent considerably more than I should have, more than I truthfully could afford, so that I could get a package deal for an autograph, photo op, and prime panel seating for me and my two youngest children (my older two were able to go at the last minute, but we weren't able to get the package deal for them...just seats in the panel. But still something that—I hope—they can relate to their kids someday: the day they got to meet and hear Buzz Aldrin speak in person. Heck, I'll admit that I even put my job at risk to do this.
I wanted to participate in this, not just because of the cool factor, but because it was intensely personal for me. As my long-time readers may remember, I lost my father to cancer almost five years ago. He was Air Force, like Buzz, and they were contemporaries, although I have no reason to believe they ever met or had any association other than the wings pinned to their chest. But tears fell as I thought about how much I would have liked my father to be there and listen to these stories. I nearly sobbed out loud when Buzz talked about being on "alert" with his F-100 squadron while "bombers loaded with nuclear weapons flew overhead"; my Dad was pilot-navigator on B-47s for SAC...flying around the world with live nuclear weapons on board. The idea that one of those planes could have been my Dad's? It hit close to home and brought my Dad a bit closer...for a time, at least.
Add to this the time spent with my family today, and the chance to chill for awhile with one of my oldest friends (and fellow grumpy curmudgeon)...it was a pretty dang good day.
We could all do worse, and our kids could do worse, than a man like this as a role model. He's 86+ years old, and still spry, still working as a self-proclaimed "global ambassador for space." His latest project is trying to rejuvenate the space program and to work to get manned missions to Mars.
If you're interested, you can follow his travels and work on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/buzzaldrin ), on Twitter (@TheRealBuzz), on the web at (http://www.buzzaldrin.com/), or at www.sharespace.org.
For those of you who may not be aware, the title of this post comes from Buzz's first words as he set foot on another world. (About 1:10 in on the below video.)
Kudos to Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg for another—for me, at least—successful Salt Lake Comic Con. If you're ever so inclined to travel to Utah, I would highly recommend it.