Two years earlier, the Apollo project was placed on indefinite hold following the tragic deaths of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffe who were killed on January 27, 1967, while trapped inside the Apollo I crew module during a training exercise. A short circuit in the electrical systems sparked a fire in the capsule. The astronauts asphyxiated as the fire burned through their oxygen hoses, filling their lungs with carbon monoxide.
The crew of Apollo 8 successfully launched on December 21, 1968, and the world was their captive audience for a Christmas Eve broadcast by the crew…
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders: “For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.”
November 17, 1968, 6:59:51 – 5,000 feet over Los Angeles, California. A man is seated in seat 3A of an Air Texas flight. He eats the last peanut from an open bag, watching a fly buzz idly forward from the back of the cabin. He holds the empty package up to the window, amazed that he can see light through the cellophane packaging. He is flying home to L.A. for a week to visit his sister, whom he has not seen in many years. There was bad blood between them as children. He feels it is time to put that aside.
Unfortunately, his visit will not be a welcome one. He will fight bitterly with her husband, and cut his visit short by one day. This event will make him one of seven passengers booked on Cable Commuter Airlines 544, a DHC-6 Twin Otter 200 flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Orange Airport in Santa Ana on Saturday, 23 November, 8:03 p.m.
While on a radio-controlled approach to the airport in dense fog, the aircraft will descend prematurely. Its left wing will clip a light pole on the grounds of a fire station located on Dyer Road, west of the Newport Freeway and northwest of the runway threshold. The plane will veer into the adjacent elevated western embankment of the freeway and break apart, spewing flaming wreckage across six lanes of traffic. Much of the wreckage will come to rest on the eastern embankment of the freeway, and continue to burn for about an hour. His last thoughts will be of his sister.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…”
November 17, 1968, 6:55:10 – Oakland, CA. The taillight of a brown ’68 Plymouth heading north along Tiffany Rd. flashes like a metronome, signaling the driver’s intent to merge with traffic in the right hand lane. The driver, Mr. Brian Edwards, a 43-year old advertising executive is looking forward to a quick swim at the nearby Metropolitan Country Club after a hard day at the office. The car radio is playing a song entitled “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from the recent film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair.’ Edwards notes there are few cars in the parking lot. He will have the pool to himself. Entering the pool area, he sees there’s no lifeguard present but Edwards, a competent swimmer, decides not to wait and dives right in. Seconds later, he clutches his chest and sinks like a stone. His greatest fear since childhood was dying alone. Lifeguard Phillip Macarthur will discover his body upon entering the pool area when he returns from his break.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…”
November 17, 1968, 6:56:08 – Oakland, CA. A man bursts through the door of Edward’s Liquor on San Leandro St. and begins waving a stolen pistol in the face of the cashier, demanding the contents of the drawer. The cashier is a new employee, and very nervous. This is his first hold up. He has difficulty in opening the register. Fearing for his life, he offers the robber an expensive Timex watch with trembling hands from left his wrist. The robber knocks aside a counter top display rack of peanuts in his growing frustration and screams at the cashier, demanding the cash from the safe. Suddenly, each sees clearly the face of the other. They haven’t stood this close since graduating from nearby Castlemont Senior High on Macarthur Blvd.
Where once they were inseparable friends sharing a common name, they now find themselves on opposite sides of a gun. Time stands still as a spark of recognition passes between them. The robber opens his mouth to say hello, struggling to remember the cashier’s name. “William Brian…” he whispers half aloud. The cashier, turgid with fear, nods emphatically. It is then that the gun, a cheap .38 misfires, fatally wounding the cashier in the chest. Brian Williams panics, flees, throwing the gun in a trashcan in a nearby alley. Stricken with grief, he will take his own life by jumping from the Oakland Bay Bridge 45 minutes later. With no witnesses and no suspects, the murder of William Brian will remain forever unsolved.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders: “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light…. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness…”
November 17, 1968, 6:57:16 – John O’Brien, a 22-year-old male trainee with the Peace Corps falls to his death while hiking along a mountainous waterfall in Hawaii. The examining official ruled cause of death to be cerebral hemorrhaging from a severe head injury.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Jim Lovell: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
November 17, 1968, 6:59:55 – Oakland, California, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Jets lead the Raiders with a little more than a minute left on the clock…
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Jim Lovell: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters…”
The Jets kick a field goal to take 32-29 lead. The Raiders returned the kickoff to their own 23-yard line. At that instant, there are no fewer than 12 children being conceived within a 10-mile radius from the stadium. Four of them will be born in nearby Alameda County Medical Center the following July. Two of them will be named Edward. Another will be named Brian. The fourth, a girl will be named Heidi.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Jim Lovell: “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters, which were under the firmament from the waters, which were above the firmament: and it was so.”
The game, being televised by NBC, goes to commercial and never comes back on. Millions of people assume the game ends with the Jets on top.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Jim Lovell: “And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
When the network returned, it was not to a taut battle of American Football League heavyweights. It was to “Heidi”, a made-for-TV premiere movie about a pig-tailed Alpine goat-herder, as played by Jennifer Edwards.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Frank Borman: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear’, and it was so.”
It was the penalties, in part, that caused the game to overflow its three-hour time slot. It was due to end at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Frank Borman: ”And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good…”
NBC switched to ‘Heidi’ because they’d sold the advertising slot to Timex, thereby obligated to show the movie from 7 to 9 P.M. A torrent of angry calls from angry viewers demanding to know why a spunky little girl had replaced their football game, floods the switchboard at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza, crashing the phone exchange.
December 24, 1968 – Apollo 8 Astronaut Frank Borman: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.”