Hanging with a friend of Neil and Buzz

Published 8:51 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Jarvis Howell.

Those of you who saw our Sunday paper or read the story online already know that Mr. Howell worked for NASA during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

I have to stop here and give a big thank you to Susan Stone, the director of development at Lake Prince Woods. I thought I would be on a wild goose chase looking for someone who worked for NASA 40 years ago, but she helped connect me to Howell for the story almost immediately. Plus, she tagged along for the interview, because she, too, wanted to hear about what it was like to be in the middle of history being made.

Email newsletter signup

Now, there are a lot of cool things I learned during the hour and a half I spent with Mr. Howell.

For starters, he said that working at NASA while history was being made was just like working in any other office on any other given day.

“It was just business as usual,” he said.

Can you imagine? These people literally figured out how to send men to the moon, and they were acting like they had just reorganized a filing cabinet.


It was also hard to fathom how close Howell was with the men who would become icons in this country. During our interview, he had a habit of saying things like, “Well, Neil was always…” or “ Buzz had just come in…”

Neil and Buzz.

I don’t care who you are; it’s pretty cool to talk to someone who is on a first-name basis with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

While we talking about Neil and Buzz, Susan popped up with a really good question.

She asked Mr. Howell if he had seen the television mini-series “From The Earth To The Moon,” which was shown a few years ago on HBO.

He hadn’t.

So, she pressed on, explaining that the miniseries showed the astronauts in ways the public had not seen before. They were depicted as wild, irresponsible, almost reckless.

“Well,” Mr. Howell smiled widely, “they were.”

He added that it took a special person to be able to endure the physical and psychological toll that astronaut training took, but the original seven astronauts always seemed to have a good time wherever they went.

After our interview, as I was walking to my car, I realized how cool it was to meet Mr. Howell, and how, for the afternoon, I got to relive a small piece of history right here in Suffolk.