There was a buzz ricocheting around the halls of the school on Center Harbor Road yesterday. Literally and figuratively.
But then, there's always a buzz when moonwalking astronaut Buzz Aldrin comes calling at Reston's Buzz Aldrin Elementary School.
"Ohmygosh! Look! It's him! It's really him!" sixth-grader Caitlin Chase screamed, sounding like Sally Field at the Oscars.
Then, turning back into a preteen, Caitlin purred: "It's, like, so awesome to have someone famous right here."
Aldrin, the lesser-known half of the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 lunar mission that saw Neil Armstrong step onto the moon first, tries to visit his namesake school at least once a year, inspiring the students with his mere presence and making a fuss as they proudly show him their cardboard space capsules and mock decontamination rooms.
"He's a space visionary," said Lois Aldrin, who accompanies her husband on his trips to Reston and a school in Illinois that also bears his name. "It's very heartening for him to go out and show people and talk about space, something that he loves."
Not far from Aldrin Elementary is a school named after that other space visionary, Armstrong. But Fairfax County school officials said that publicity-shy Armstrong has yet to take one small step for mankind on its schoolyard.
With Aldrin, though, it's been an annual affair ever since Aldrin Elementary opened in 1994. This year's visit is intended to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the most famous moonwalk until Michael Jackson came along.
Aldrin, 69, told his eager young audience that they need to look beyond the concerns of today to the possibilities of tomorrow. "Think into the future. We need you to have a vision," he said. "I know that's hard when you're thinking about when's recess or what's for lunch or on TV tomorrow, but you need to start thinking about the next 10, 20 and 30 years. Make me and your parents proud of what you're doing."
In his honor, the students sang, danced and showed off space shuttles and mission control rooms they'd made from cardboard boxes, brown paper bags, egg cartons and aluminum foil.
"Those are some of the fanciest helmets I've ever seen," Aldrin joked with a second-grader wearing an empty three-gallon ice cream tub on her head.
The visits by Aldrin, whose real name is Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr., help his NASA missions "come alive for the students," one administrator said yesterday. In the school's foyer hangs an eight-foot-high poster of Aldrin standing on the moon.
"They see it, but they can't relate to it," Principal Gina Ross said. "When you ask kids, `Who is an American hero?' they look at you like you're from outer space. They name football or baseball players, not real people like Buzz Aldrin who put their lives on the line."
But when Aldrin actually visits the school, "they see him, they meet him," she said. "They consider him part of our family."
"I knew a little bit about him at first," said Andrew Blum, 12. "I knew he flew to the moon and landed. But I knew Neil Armstrong better. When you see [Aldrin in person] it's more real and much more cool."
After Aldrin's speech, parents and teachers thronged around him, trying to grab a quick photo. Jason Sevin, 12, squeezed his way through the crowd.
"Dr. Aldrin, Dr. Aldrin," he pleaded. "I just want to shake your hand."
Aldrin turned and extended his right hand.
Jason shook it, then looked at his friends. "I'm never washing this hand again," he said.
CAPTION: Students at Reston's Buzz Aldrin Elementary School, above, perform a musical to honor the astronaut and to commemorate the 30th anniversary this summer of man's landing on the moon. Left, Aldrin and school Principal Gina Ross look over a book on space written by Aldrin's daughter.
CAPTION: A Buzz Or Two: Buzz Aldrin, the second astronaut to step on the moon, holds up a Buzz Lightyear doll during a visit to Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in Reston. Aldrin visits his namesake school each year.