Huntsville woman impersonated reporter to see Apollo 11 launch

Updated: Jul. 16, 2019 at 7:58 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - There were so many people alive on July 16, 1969 to witness the Apollo 11 moon launch. Many watched it live on TV. Millions of others stormed the Florida space coast to set up camp with coolers, tents and binoculars.

But one Huntsville woman came up with a different way to watch the historic launch.

“I’m Sarah Wilkinson Hereford and I was an impostor for a reporter for Apollo 11.”

Hereford is a 1969 grad from Coca Beach High School in Florida who was determined to see the moon launch up close, so she broke the rules.

“I was Chris MacGill with The Associated Press for that one day,” she said.

MacGill, who was the real reporter that day, missed the deadline to pick up the required Kennedy Space Center press pass for July 16, 1969, so Hereford took it instead.

“I’m not a person that would do things to get me into trouble. But for this? But for this, I really wanted to go,” said Hereford.

Hereford’s dad and his friend were tipped off that MacGill was going to be a no-show, so she drove out to the space center before dawn, picked up MacGill’s press credentials, pretended to be MacGill and hopped on a bus for the press site.

“I was scared to death,” she said.

She said there was no picture of MacGill on the press pass, which she thought was good.

But Hereford had no notebook, no pen, no pencil and no camera. Normally, these are dead giveaways.

“I was too scared to carry a camera because all I had was a Polaroid and I knew no reporter carried Polaroid cameras,” she said.

Hereford knew she could have been arrested but she didn’t care. She wanted to be there when the van left carrying three astronauts to the launch pad.

“I could have reached out and touched those astronauts and here I am somebody that I am not,” she said.

She said she then positioned herself under the famous television anchors of the day and watched the countdown clock tick to zero.

“I honestly thought I was going to die. It was so powerful. It was like standing in the middle of a thousand base drums,” she said. “It was amazing.”

And she knows she wouldn’t have seen that launch so close had the real reporter shown up for her press pass.

So who was this Chris MacGill? Hereford searched years ago and was unsuccessful in turning up much information.

WAFF 48 News contacted the AP and found MacGill was a well-respected female reporter covering big stories in the United States in the 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond and was never seen without her camera.

Where was she that historic day? The AP is still digging for that answer. So are her nieces and nephews. MacGill died in 2010 and that information may have gone with her.

Hereford is now 68 and has lived in Huntsville all of her adult life. She is a well-respected realtor and an ardent supporter of the U.S. space program.

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