I was reading one of the blogs I like today, Travel Tales and Pictures, and there was some very nice shots of New York City that made me remember this episode.
In July of 1969, we left Toronto driving down to the United States via Niagara Falls and into Buffalo, through the beautiful countryside of New York State and into New York City.
We stayed in a hotel on Time Square on the tenth floor and could see all the lights and excitement of the street below. It was an exciting place to be. Just before leaving Toronto I had seen the excellent movie Midnight Cowboy, which had come out that May, and it seemed to me as we walked around Time Square that first night that I could see Ratso, the character played by Dustin Hoffman, and John Voight's cowboy lurking on every corner.
We had taken the trip to the Statue of Liberty, and done some other sight seeing and pleasantly tired after dinner had gone up to our room. We were out on the balcony scanning the night sky because someone had told us because it was such a clear night we might be able to see Apollo II as it passed over.
Suddenly, there was a terrific clanging and someone running up the corridor banging on doors, there was a fire in the hotel, and we had to evacuate immediately. We ran to the fire escape and hurtled down the stairs, and tumbled into Time Square. There was about 800 other people all milling around wondering what was happening. Luckily it was only smoke in the kitchen and we all were able to return safely to our rooms.
Next day, July 20, 1969, we went to Central Park to witness the landing of the Apollo II on the moon. The event unfolded on large projection screens set up in the Sheep Meadow. The atmosphere was reverent and the huge crowd was quiet with uneasy anticipation. When the first images flickered the crowd went nuts and strangers were hugging each other and jumping up and down with excitement.
We left New York the next day to continue on our grand tour of the United States and Mexico, but we felt that anything would be an anticlimax after what we had witnessed the day before.