Fair View aplogizes in advance to readers who may be upset by this post. We try very hard not cover upsetting events, but this time it was needed for the reader to understand the author’s psyche.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States regarding the Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. The missiles were ostensibly placed to protect Cuba from further planned attacks by the United States after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and were rationalized by the Soviets as equivalent to the U.S. placing deployable nuclear warheads in the United Kingdom, Italy, and most significantly, Turkey. The crisis began on October 16, 1962 when U.S. reconnaissance data revealing Soviet nuclear missile installations on the island were shown to U.S. President John F. Kennedy and ended twelve days later on October 28, 1962, when Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev announced that the installations would be dismantled. The Cuban Missile Crisis is often regarded as the moment when the Cold War came closest to escalating into a nuclear war. Russians refer to the event as the “Caribbean Crisis,” while Cubans refer to it as the “October Crisis.”
I remember it clear as if it were yesterday. I was six years old and in first grade when the Cuban Missile Crisis began. At school we were being shown films about how we should “duck and cover” to be ready for when the bombs dropped. I was terrified. I didn’t understand how crouching under my desk and putting my head down was going to save my life when the fireball came through. Certainly, we lived close enough to New York City that that would be the case. I pictured that someday after all us kids were fried, somebody would make a grisly discovery of all these little skeletons crouched under their desks and just shake their heads at the futility of our survival efforts.
I also saw all of the films on how the blast would affect houses.
How could anybody survive that, I wondered?
I went home that day to ask my mom how serious this nuclear crisis was absolutely sure she would tell me there was nothing to worry about. So, there I was in the kitchen, standing in front of the breadbox and I asked her, “Mom, are the Russians going to bomb us?”
She stopped peeling carrots and looked at me. She said, “I don’t know Susie. I hope not.” Then she kind of staggered and her face crinkled with worry lines. I walked away with really big eyes more scared than I dared admit and saying nothing.
That was when my mushroom cloud dreams began. I would dream that somewhere the bomb would drop and a mushroom cloud would form and my whole family and house would be vaporized in the fireball which would rush towards us at the speed of light. My bedroom window faced New York City and I would sleep with my head towards the window, figuring I would die more quickly and never feel a thing.
I would jolt awake from these dreams with my leg muscles in painful spasms and have to work with the muscles to release the cramps. The crisis ended without nuclear war, as we all know. But my dreams continued to plague me well into college.