During the next few days everyone’s nerves were having a time of it as the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 escalated.
Along with the rest of the country, my parents anxiously followed the formation of Kennedy’s Cuban Quarantine during the Missile Crisis. The time had come for a direct military showdown with the Soviet Union.
The war mongers were busy beating their tom toms.
Most felt the Soviets had crossed the line on this one. They had come into our hemisphere, their nuclear warheads aimed directly at us and we had to make sure they didn’t strike first. Folks didn’t expect the Soviets to remove their missiles and bombers, so sooner or later we would have to go in and then the Russians would retaliate.
As the tension mounted, many atomic armchair strategists felt strongly that the best defense was offense- get ‘em before they hit us. “If the Russian offensive build up continued, Kennedy would have no choice but to unleash the mighty US force.” Dad said gravely.
On Wednesday, when Soviet ships changed course rather than make contact with the naval blockade, there was some relief. No new weapons were being shipped to Cuba. But Hi-ho-hi-ho it was off to work they go as industrious red dwarfs continued to work day and night on the existing missiles which would soon be operational.
School officials were now scurrying to make all sorts of contingency plans for what seemed like the possibility of a real attack.
Still confined to my bedroom with German measles, I would hear the ominous sound of the air raid drill alarm ringing at West Hempstead High School a few blocks away, every few hours.
I could picture all the frightened school kids jumping out of their desks as I had done countless times, kneeling underneath desks, hands clasped behind necks, eyes closed waiting for that imminent flash.
That afternoon, my fifth grade brother brought home from school mimeographed maps of the cities upon which were superimposed ominous bulls eyes showing the lethal reach of the bombs.
In school they had developed a plan for evacuating elementary school kids in the event of a threatened enemy air raid upon NYC. In case of emergency it was thought better to be incinerated at home rather than at school.
Our teacher had handed out printed permission slips to take home and have our parents sign, allowing us to walk home in a practice walk-home drill. Earlier in the school year we had been issued plastic dog tags with our picture and address on it that we were to wear in case of emergency, and now we would actually get to wear them.
Disappointed that I’d be left out of the big march, Mom let me out of my sick room long enough so I could watch from the living room window as all my classmates, lined up in size order, silently marched down my deserted block on their practice drill.
The loud roar of an overhead jet temporarily distracted me. Anxiously I scanned the skies from our picture window for an enemy attack, as though it were WWII and I were a spotter standing on a rooftop scanning the skies for the sight of a Japanese flag painted on the belly of the aircraft.
I was too young to comprehend the total annihilation of nuclear war. All I knew was, we were to be prepared. I knew a nuclear attack could occur any time anyplace any day. Would this be the day?
I squinted into the bright sky as if somehow I would spot the sickle and hammer of the Soviet plane, straining to hear the whirl of a 4 engine Russian bomber, certain that it was the one carrying the bomb.
Somewhere out there the enemy was approaching. My parents would shake their heads, as they watched me, but neither of them had the heart to tell me what they already knew- that now, by the time you eyed the enemy…it was already too late.
Copyright (©) 2012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
- The Cuban Missile Crisis PT I (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- The Cuban Missile Crisis PtIII