Armstrong’s character revealed by modest article

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From Mr Jim Arthur.

Sir, With reference to your obituary of Neil Armstrong (“Reluctant hero who believed he was just doing his job”, August 27): there is still confusion over what he said as he stepped on to the moon. Armstrong claimed that the official transcript misquoted him, that he said just what he had intended to say, “a man”, not just “man”.

I distinctly remember watching and listening to that moment on our small black and white television. He said: “That’s one small step for a man”, not “one small step for man”. There was a hesitation in his voice around the “a”, probably due to the transmission, but he clearly said it.

I remember thinking how concisely he distinguished a single person’s action – his job of taking that final step – from the countless steps taken over the decade and, indeed, over the centuries by so many others, by “mankind”. Today, reading the tributes to Armstrong, we can see how inclusion of that most modest article, the indefinite article, also revealed Mr Armstrong’s character, his unwillingness to assume the role of a celebrity.

Jim Arthur, Olympia, WA, US

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