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It happened one autumn
Written by Joe Awad   
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 9:42 PM

October came and went. November is nearly behind us, and I have seen little coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Buried, I’m sure, by the historic election, campaign and post-election coverage that has dominated the national news scene.

Yet, the CMC remains a defining period in America and throughout the world. It is, in my assessment, the crescendo of the Cold War.

Two great nuclear powers stood toe to toe, and many adults felt as the end of the world was imminent. but what do adults know?

Eyes of a child
I was seven, but my memory is vivid. I see that time in 1962 as clearly as my breakfast this morning; perhaps more keenly.

Mom was frightened, tense, filling the bathtub with water for the expected “atomic bomb” attack from the Soviet Union, which everyone in my neighborhood called Russia.

I remember her telling me we needed fresh water because the bombs would contaminate outside sources with “X-rays.” She rushed me off to basement, instructing me to clean the “storm cellar” spick and span.

It was more like an alcove from which my dad ran his little repair shop for black and white tube-type TVs and home dial radios. I was entrusted with the job, no one else.

I stood in the small room gazing at my dad’s electronics repair equipment, trying to figure out the whole X-ray business with the basic understanding that X-rays were good things as far as I knew. The tubes, still there, under my brother’s ownership, remind me of bombs to this day.

The place was cool and quiet but my drifting thoughts were interrupted by Mom calling me to fill up pots and pans with water, then place them in the little room, and to scoop the canned goods from the shelves and stack them neatly in the corner of the alcove.

Survival water
I don’t remember cleaning, but I recall the neatly stacked blankets and pillows, and my brother, Tony, and I running down to the basement to take a gulp of water about every five minutes.

This was survival water, and, by God, we were determined to survive. What do adults know, anyway.

Someone, Mary, Tina, screamed there was no transistor radio in the room as instructed by the news guy. Ironic: hours before the room had been filled with radios … broken radios.

We were ready; our bunker was prepared. Little did we know that it would be our grave if a nuclear bomb had detonated in Greater Cincinnati. I laugh when I think of our general ignorance or see those film clips of school kids ducking under desks.

Each day passed, and we drained and refilled the bathtub as the little room became increasingly disorganized. In the end, no “atomic bomb” could render it any worse.

Sighs of relief
Most of all, I remember the sighs of relief from my mom as each day passed, especially when the news guy told us the Russians had agreed to destroy their missiles in Cuba, which he told me was only 90 miles from Florida.

We had survived. That’s the way I remember it.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13-day confrontation in October 1962 between the Soviet Union, its Cuban proxy and the US. It is the episode in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict. The confrontation ended Oct. 28 when President Kennedy pressured the Soviets to dismantle their weapons and take them home. The US lifted a naval blockade of Cuba on Nov. 20.
“We have won a considerable victory. You and I are still alive.” - Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

Joe Awad is editor of The Harrison Press.