Originally posted on LinkedIn June 1st, 2023
As a former student at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville (SIUE), I had the incredible opportunity to attend a ROTC ball at a hotel in St. Louis, MO. It was a night filled with anticipation, as we dressed in our Class A uniforms, immersing ourselves in new traditions and planning our future military careers.
That evening, each of us had assignments to ensure the event ran smoothly. Mine was particularly exciting – I was tasked with escorting our guest speaker, a living legend from the Apollo Astronauts, from his hotel room to the ballroom and back again after his speech.
I remember my excitement as I embarked on this assignment. Being passionate about pursuing an aviation career in the military, the chance to interact with someone who had been a part of the Apollo program was a dream come true. Though the specific astronaut’s name escapes me now, the memory of the experience remains vivid.
The journey from his hotel room to the ballroom was uneventful, with a group of enthusiastic cadets bombarding him with questions and admiration along the way. The astronaut’s speech was awe-inspiring. Listening to his firsthand account of sitting atop a Saturn V rocket was nothing short of phenomenal.
As the speech concluded and the customary handshakes and expressions of gratitude filled the air, the astronaut indicated to me that he was ready to call it a night. I politely excused him from the crowd and accompanied him back to the elevator. This time, it was just the two of us, and I stood quietly beside him, assuming he might appreciate some tranquility after a long evening of interactions.
In that small elevator, he made a remark that has stayed with me ever since. He mentioned how the elevator we were in was not much larger than the one he rode up to the capsule on that historic day. For a brief moment, the modern surroundings of the hotel elevator melted away, and through his words and memories, I could vividly imagine the exhilaration and perhaps even the fear they experienced on that momentous journey.
As I left him at his room, I thanked him once again for being a part of our ball and, more importantly, for sharing that personal recollection with me. It left an indelible impression on me, despite my regret for not recalling his name.
The profound lesson I took away from this encounter is that every meeting holds the potential to shape our lives in unexpected ways. We never know what might come from these chance occurrences, both in the present and in the future. It serves as a reminder to celebrate and embrace these encounters, for you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to meet someone extraordinary, like an astronaut.
I still hope to find the autograph I received from him, as it would serve as a tangible reminder of the wisdom and inspiration he imparted during that brief elevator ride. This experience has taught me to cherish every moment and to find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places.
In a world where serendipity can bridge the gap between ordinary and extraordinary, my story encourages you to embrace the unknown, for within those chance encounters lies the potential for life-altering experiences.
Credit to https://unsplash.com/@historyhd for the photo.