Too many of the events that Americans who lived through the second half of the 20th Century remember with crystal clarity, as if they occurred yesterday, were tragedies.
One was a wonderful, shining triumph for all humankind, however - the culmination of a collective adventure.
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," Neil Armstrong recounted saying as he stepped onto the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, going there with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in a flight that fulfilled the promise made by the late John F. Kennedy, not long after he became president. Kennedy pledged that Americans would go to the moon and return within the decade.
With a small corps of other astronauts, Armstrong signed on for the adventure.
After his historic flight, Armstrong was an international celebrity, one who shunned the limelight. He stepped back into it in 2010, quietly criticizing the decision to mothball the U.S. space shuttle fleet and abandon the capability to send men and women into the final frontier.
Neil Armstrong, 82, died Saturday.
During an era in which the word "hero" often is used inappropriately, it is clear Americans have indeed lost a true hero.
Godspeed to him on his final journey.