Saturday, August 12, 2017

Duck and Cover - DTJ



I was in my senior year of high school when Russia parked missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis also known as the Crisis de Octobre or just the Missile Scare was 13 days in October of 1962, the 16th through the 28th. Thirteen months later the President who stared down the Russians would be dead in Dallas. Shot by a man connected with Russia. My first conspiracy theory was that Russia was responsible because of those missiles President Kennedy made them take out of Cuba.

The building of a personal bomb shelter was a big conversation topic on Bellamah Street in Albuquerque in 1962 and 1963. The city nobody could spell was on the top ten hit list for missiles from Russia. We had two Air Force Bases and a mountain in the Manzano mountains to the immediate east which was hallowed out to stockpile our nuclear arsenal. And air raid sirens were tested every day. Duck and Cover made a return into my life.

I was in the second grade in Roswell, NM going to a Walker Air Force base school when I first remember being schooled in Duck and Cover. And being marched out of our building to a designated bomb shelter. My US Air Force pilot father talked me out of my tears of fear by informing me it didn't work. There was no way to survive a nuclear war. So I should just humor the adults who thought there was by dutifully hiding under my desk or marching in a row through the fall out to a basement with an atomic energy symbol on the door.
In the days following 9/11 a young adult friend of mine asked me why I was not afraid. I replied rather glibly, "Nothing new. I grew up afraid. I am one of the duck and cover generation." I don't remember fire drills in school but air raid drills. 

There has been a lot of talk about that long ago Missile Crisis since Trump has begun his verbal war with Korea. It has brought up a lot of memories about those long ago days in October. One of the biggest is Mom and Dad taking us on a camping trip to the mountains. No internet in those days. And actually no radio either. Not in the mountains. But Dad tried to get reception to keep up with what was going on. The static made it impossible. Without being told I fell in with the adult plan of enjoying the fishing and not being afraid of a red dawn. I was the oldest.

Until the day came to drive back home. If home was there. I tried not to notice Dad not turning up the volume on the car radio. "Maybe we should stay here," I said aloud as we drove into the tiny village of Canjilon, New Mexico. It was another ten miles before the radio would pick up an Albuquerque station and the local weather.

Home was still there. But to this day in times of no win situations I think of Canjilon and the beaver lakes where we fished for five days in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I am glad I have returned to the mountains to live. We are not on anyone's top ten list. That is good.


1 comment:

  1. It is indeed good. I remember the Cuban crisis so well. I was at boarding school. Chris and I shared a dorm and even though we weren't allowed to speak above the first floor, we whispered and cried together at night during that time. Her parents lived within 50 miles of the school but mine were based a flight away, in Germany and I was so afraid that I would never see them again before we all died in a nuclear war.

    It was a terrifying time and other things as the years went by, made me very afraid. That was, until I, with my family, were held hostage in our home in Nigeria during a military coup. Twenty two armed soldiers and secret police burst into our home in the early hours of the morning, looking for Dikko, the Foreign Minister of the overthrown government. When you survive sitting on a settee in your living room, surrounded by that number of men, knowing that there are many more in your garden, and around your perimeter, knowing you have a child sleeping upstairs and hoping that he didn't wake up and run out of his bedroom only to be shot by the nervous rifle toting soldier standing at the bottom of the stairs, nothing ever scares you again.

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