Real Michiana: A part of history
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -
A South Bend man packed his bags and traveled to California Friday to be part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the moon landing.
Jack Driver was on the team to recover the Apollo 11 capsule after it splashed down 50 years ago.
“It was a long time ago,” he said, looking back at pictures from five decades ago.
“This is one of the planes that landed on it,” he said about one photo. “Here’s a letter from the commanding officer.”
Despite the years, Driver says the memories sometimes feel like yesterday.
“Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been 50 years,” he said.
Driver is from South Bend. He joined the marines after his brother was drafted more than 50 years ago, but he didn’t end up where he planned.
“I ended up in San Diego in school. I didn’t know it was sea school, but it happened to be sea school. After that I got transferred to the USS Hornett,” said Driver. “That’s when we found out we were going on that mission to pick up Apollo 11.”
But heading out on that mission, it wasn’t the moon landing that was on Driver’s mind.
“The ship just kept going until we couldn’t see no land,” he said laughing. “That’s the part I didn’t like.”
He stayed in cramped quarters for days.
“It takes a lot,” said Driver.
After about 10 days on the ship, Driver says the capsule landed.
“The capsule came down so far away that all we saw was a jet stream,” he said “They hoisted it on… top of the ship, and put it on a platform, and rolled it into the hangar bay and put a barrier around so we had to guard it.”
Driver stood guard, but not without taking a piece for a souvenir.
“It was so hot coming back through the atmosphere that the protective coating was peeling. I just looked at it and that looked like a good souvenir so I took it,” he said.
Now he still holds onto that souvenir and the pictures of men who he served with. He says the best part of looking back, is seeing his old friends.
“I think there was five of us that were black,” he said. “I haven’t seen them since they got off of it.”
Those friends really became more like family.
“After a while you know we were like brothers,” said Driver.
After an experience that in hindsight holds a little more weight.
“All we was thinking about was getting off that ship,” said Driver. “Looking back you realize you know you was part of history.”
And after being a witness to that historic moment, Drivers advice: shoot for the stars.
“I tell everybody do what your mind tells you to do, what you dream about,” he said. “What your heart tells you, you’re capable of doing.”
Driver will spend the weekend in California to celebrate the 50th anniversary. He also attended the 30th and 40th anniversaries and says god willing, he’ll attend the 60th.