Buzz Aldrin, Montclair’s own moonwalker and native son, was honored by his hometown with a key to Montclair, a plaque at Montclair High School, and the renaming of STEM small learning community at the high school as the Buzz Aldrin STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Academy.
Mayor Robert Jackson, who introduced Aldrin at the Sunday morning ceremony for Buzz Aldrin Day, organized by Montclair Fund For Educational Excellence at Montclair High School, said that the town has never presented a key before. Jackson, mirroring Neil Armstrong’s famous statement, described the key as “a small token to a native son of Montclair, a giant expression of awe, gratitude, and love to an American hero.”
Aldrin, 83, then spoke to a rapt crowd for over 20 minutes, covering everything from his Twitter handle (@TheRealBuzz), his time on the football team at Montclair High, and his commitment to an American-led exploration of Mars. Aldrin, speaking off the cuff, amazingly even recited a poem from his youth. About 14 minutes into his speech, Aldrin turned serious, expressing his concern with the suicide rate that exists among veterans –22 veterans a day — which led to candid remarks about his own struggles.
“I mnyself have had periods of depression that were fairly serious,” said Aldrin, adding that it was something he inherited. “My grandfather committed suicide, my mother committed suicide before I went to the military. So I had to deal with that and of course it led to other obstacles in my history in the area of alcoholism. but I know have 34 years of sobriety,” said Aldrin, receiving a big cheer from the crowd.
“I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to walk into these halls of education and to see my name hanging around on banners,” added Aldrin. “It’s unbelieveable. I just feel so choked up with emotion about being so lucky in my life. A lot of people helped, a lot of people were teachers along the way.”
Aldrin was honored by Boy Scout Troop 12, the troop he belonged to as a boy, and another surprise was the unveiling of the original 1947 state championship football trophy. Aldrin’s sister Maddy was on hand for the ceremony and the crowd joined Aldrin in wishing her a happy birthday toward the end of the ceremony.
Councilor Robin Schlager, who was instrumental in planning the events, says a committee will be formed to look at both the renaming of Mt. Hebron School to honor Aldrin, as well as the commissioning of a bronze bust to be placed in town.
More important than Buzz Aldrin Day its my sister Maddy’s 88th bday and I’m thrilled to be spending it with her. Hap… say.ly/QxM5Xpv
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) June 3, 2013