Seniors intently watch Glenn’s takeoff |

Seniors intently watch Glenn’s takeoff

Christina Proctor

The day John Glenn first went into orbit in 1962 Helen Harvell moved into her new home in Concord, Calif.

“We had radios tied on in the back of our cars and we would pull over so we could hear the updates,” Harvell said, clearly remembering that February day 36 years ago that changed the American space program forever. “I’m still in that same house so I guess today is kind of an anniversary for me as well.”

Harvell, 70, watched Glenn once again step into the history books Thursday at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center. She was visiting South Shore with her daughter.

The television room at the center was the focal point as people crowded in to watch the countdown and reminisce.

“It’s incredible in less than four minutes almost they’re in space,” Harvell said. “In such a short time all the capabilities we’ve achieved … I wonder how far they’re going to take it. I think some day we’ll have colonies up there.”

All watching the Discovery’s launch could remember Glenn’s first flight in the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule and the excitement and American pride it elicited. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.

“The use of John Glenn going up there is a good public relations move,” Harvell said. “He’s also bold and brave enough to try it at his age. He’s an inspiration for most people over 60, probably for most people over 50. It inspires me. I think I’ll get more energetic.”

Joyce Gibson, 72, was a buyer at a television store in the Bay Area in 1962. She remembers work stopping during Glenn’s launch.

“I hope that everything goes well for him and it doesn’t hurt his health in any way,” Gibson said, adding that Thursday’s launch made her feel proud. “I always thought the space program was important.”

Lee Ray, 81, a retired architect’s consultant, said Glenn’s presence on the space shuttle this time around brought a much-needed spotlight to the United States space program.

“It gained a lot of publicity and rightfully so,” Ray said. “I think they’ve fallen back without the publicity. This may be considered a political move by some, but the advantages far outweigh any worry about political ploys. Glenn is an example of what you can do if you stay active.”

Gil Cordeiro, 72, got up at 7:30 a.m. to watch the beginning of the launch television coverage. He came to the senior center for the final event.

“It takes a lot of guts to do what John Glenn is doing,” Cordeiro said with respect. “The speed blows my mind. It’s fantastic. It made me proud. I’m glad they made it off safely.”

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