Buzz Aldrin’s N.J. hometown celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing – NJ.com

Dozens of appreciative Montclair residents and space enthusiasts came out on Saturday morning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which starred their very own Buzz Aldrin.

Located at the town’s public library, the commemorative event featured a number of space-related speakers, All of whom had some part in honoring the 89-year-old former astronaut and engineer or involvement in the mission.

“Buzz Aldrin has been an unbelievable example to our kids,” said Major Jennings, the assistant principal of Buzz Aldrin Middle School, who cited the school’s collaborative learning and emphasis on critical thinking as to why it’s a “pipeline” to future scientists and space explorers.

As the second man to land on the moon, Aldrin’s legacy has continued to thrive in his former hometown. The community group dubbed the “Man on the Moon Committee,” which successfully petitioned the Board of Education to change the name of Mt. Hebron Middle School to Buzz Aldrin Middle School, was represented at the event by Katie Rubacky Severance, the founder of the group.

“The only physical evidence [of Aldrin’s accomplishment] was a plaque,” said Severance, referencing the time before the school’s name change. “One of the highlights of my life was serving on this committee.”

Ralph Villecca, the director of the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey, alluded to the tenacity of the American spirit, embodied by Aldrin’s drive and success.

“Failure is not an option,” Villecca said, referencing the famous line from the 1995 film, Apollo 13. “That truly epitomized man’s mission.”

He recalled telling Aldrin where he was when the moon landing happened, which was watching the television at home with his dad, a “gruff, Italian guy from Newark,” according to Villecca.

“[My dad] said, ‘Kid, they’re never getting off the moon,’” Villecca remembered, to the audience’s laughter. “Buzz said to me, ‘You know Ralph, we had our moments and doubts there too.’”

Brianna Kudisch | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Rags Buchner, who heads up Boy Scout Troop 40 in Rahway, NJ, had his Apollo 11 spacecraft replica on display in front of the library.

Mayor Robert Jackson delivered the final remarks and read the proclamation that detailed Aldrin’s life and accomplishments, along with a few council members.

Other speakers in attendance included Jonathan Atler, a Montclair resident and journalist, who called Aldrin a “son of Montclair” and Dr. Frederick Chichester, who was part of the team that developed the Apollo 11 lunar module rocket engine control system.

The crowd ranged in ages from elementary-aged children to more senior individuals who raised their hand when a speaker asked who remembered the moon landing 50 years ago.

Event attendees also entered into a drawing for the 2018 book “To the Moon and Back: My Apollo 11 Adventure,” by Aldrin and Marianne Dyson, and illustrated by Bruce Foster.

There was also a robotics demonstration from team members of L3 Academy—a Montclair learning center that offers STEM programs for kids—to acknowledge Aldrin’s academic accomplishments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his doctorate in 1963.

“[Today] we honor the American spirit,” said Villecca. “There’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”

Brianna Kudisch may be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @briannakudisch. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.

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