A post by JF on Vasili Arkhipov, a Russian who prevented the crossing of the brink to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis got me thinking about those days, I as a 10-year-old girl in 1962, faced the idea of war.
I was not afraid. Drills in school to go into the hall and curl up against the wall with my hands clasped protectively over my neck had trained me in what to do during a nuclear attack. Duck and Cover was the rule. Duck under a desk, a table, a tablecloth. (Really! The cloth would reflect and prevent absorption of radiation.) Knowing all of this I was ready to act.
I watched the pile of canned goods and not perishables build up in the corner of the basement, and what I now know as Bug-Out Bags were readied. Others were building bomb shelters and my Dad, who had actually seen nuclear tests done during his time Army, would laugh at them. Dad expressed the opinion that because we lived so close to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the airport would be targeted and we wouldn’t have time to be afraid, and would never know a thing. True or not, I somehow found comfort in the idea that I would feel no fear or pain.
I clearly remember the Doomsday Clock on the news that told us how many minutes we were away from nuclear war. As the Cuban Missile Crisis went on, I remember the clock counting down going to one minute. I remember the seriousness of my parents, and the unusual quietness of our home as my parents kept the little ones still and we all sat watching the news. Unknown to me, my parents were trying to decide if it was time to go to Grandma’s in Oklahoma, the designated meeting spot for the entire family.
There was much posturing and bluster, which included nuclear testing, and demands issued from both sides. Behind the closed doors of government on both sides there were people eager to go to war. Thank God the cooler heads prevailed.