Spirit of Apollo

Whatever I might do, it would not be as overwhelming as this.
Ed White taking the first American spacewalk. June 3, 1965.

From Burning the Days by James Salter, who flew F-86s in the Korean War alongside White:

I flew back to Bitburg with Ed White, one of the two men in the squadron to become famous — Aldrin was the other — on a winter day. It was late in the afternoon, everything blue as metal, the sky, the towns and forests, even the snow. The other ship, silent, constant on your wing. With the happiness of being with someone you like, through it we went together, at thirty-five thousand, the thin froth of contrails fading behind.
White had been the first person I met when I came to the squadron and I knew him well. In the housing area he and his wife lived on our stairway. He had a fair, almost milky, complexion and reddish hair. An athlete, a hurdler; you see his face on many campuses, idealistic, aglow. He was an excellent pilot, acknowledged as such by those implacable judges, the ground crew. They did not revere him as they did the ruffians who might drink with them, discuss the merits of the squadron commander or sexual exploits, but they respected him and his proper, almost studious, ways. God and country — these were the things he had been bred for. 
In Paris, a lifetime later, in a hotel room I watched as on screens everywhere he walked dreamily in space, the first American to do so. I was nervous and depressed. My chest ached. My hair had patches of gray. White was turning slowly, upside down, tethered to the spacecraft by a lazy cord. I was sick with envy — he was destroying hope. Whatever I might do, it would not be as overwhelming as this. I felt a kind of loneliness and terror. I wanted to be home, to see my children again before the end, and I was certain it was near the end; I felt suicidal, ready to burst into tears. He did this to me unknowingly, as a beautiful woman crossing the street crushes hearts beneath her heel.
White burned to ashes in the terrible accident on the launching pad at Cape Canaveral in 1967. He died with Virgil Grisson, with whom I had also flown. His funeral was solemn. I attended, feeling out of place. To be killed flying had always been a possibility, but the two of them had somehow moved beyond that. They were already visible in that great photograph of our time, the one called celebrity. Still youthful and, so far as I knew, unspoiled, they were like jockeys moving to the post for an event that would mark the century, the race to the moon. The absolutely unforeseen destroyed them. Aldrin went instead.
White is buried in the same cemetery as my father, not far away. I visit both graves when I am there. White’s, though amid others, seems visible from some distance off, just as he himself was if you looked intently at the ranks.

Ed White taking the first American spacewalk. June 3, 1965.

From Burning the Days by James Salter, who flew F-86s in the Korean War alongside White:

I flew back to Bitburg with Ed White, one of the two men in the squadron to become famous — Aldrin was the other — on a winter day. It was late in the afternoon, everything blue as metal, the sky, the towns and forests, even the snow. The other ship, silent, constant on your wing. With the happiness of being with someone you like, through it we went together, at thirty-five thousand, the thin froth of contrails fading behind.

White had been the first person I met when I came to the squadron and I knew him well. In the housing area he and his wife lived on our stairway. He had a fair, almost milky, complexion and reddish hair. An athlete, a hurdler; you see his face on many campuses, idealistic, aglow. He was an excellent pilot, acknowledged as such by those implacable judges, the ground crew. They did not revere him as they did the ruffians who might drink with them, discuss the merits of the squadron commander or sexual exploits, but they respected him and his proper, almost studious, ways. God and country — these were the things he had been bred for. 

In Paris, a lifetime later, in a hotel room I watched as on screens everywhere he walked dreamily in space, the first American to do so. I was nervous and depressed. My chest ached. My hair had patches of gray. White was turning slowly, upside down, tethered to the spacecraft by a lazy cord. I was sick with envy — he was destroying hope. Whatever I might do, it would not be as overwhelming as this. I felt a kind of loneliness and terror. I wanted to be home, to see my children again before the end, and I was certain it was near the end; I felt suicidal, ready to burst into tears. He did this to me unknowingly, as a beautiful woman crossing the street crushes hearts beneath her heel.

White burned to ashes in the terrible accident on the launching pad at Cape Canaveral in 1967. He died with Virgil Grisson, with whom I had also flown. His funeral was solemn. I attended, feeling out of place. To be killed flying had always been a possibility, but the two of them had somehow moved beyond that. They were already visible in that great photograph of our time, the one called celebrity. Still youthful and, so far as I knew, unspoiled, they were like jockeys moving to the post for an event that would mark the century, the race to the moon. The absolutely unforeseen destroyed them. Aldrin went instead.

White is buried in the same cemetery as my father, not far away. I visit both graves when I am there. White’s, though amid others, seems visible from some distance off, just as he himself was if you looked intently at the ranks.

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