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Thanks to Neil Armstrong, a break in the Cold War

Regarding Daniel Goldin’s Aug. 31 Washington Forum commentary, “Reaching for the moon, and beyond”:

On July 20, 1969, around 6 p.m. in Budapest, I left my desk in the U.S. Embassy to meet my wife outside. She was waiting to drive me home. I exited the embassy and, as I did every day, acknowledged with my customary wave the several not-so-secret Hungarian policemen who had been stationed outside the entrance since 1956, where they waited to arrest Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty were he to emerge from the building where he had taken refuge from Soviet tanks. In return, they gave me their usual cold stares.

Leaning into our car I heard a Voice of America announcer say, “You will now hear astronaut Neil Armstrong as he steps foot on the moon.” My excitement apparently aroused the curiosity of one of the policemen, who approached with hesitant steps and tilted his head questioningly. I told him in Hungarian what was happening and invited him to listen. He did, then turned to me, shook my hand and, returning to his comrades, spoke to them.

What happened next has been as memorable for me and my wife as hearing Mr. Armstrong utter his famous words. All five policemen smiled, vigorously nodded their heads and clapped. It was a unique moment that gave special meaning to that “giant leap for mankind” during the Cold War.

The next day, however, the cold stares returned.

Edward Alexander, Bethesda

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