Throughout my 60-plus years of living my life experiences have taught me a lot. Like most people I’ve had my shares of joys and heartaches.
Among the scariest experiences in my memory bank is angst I felt from the threat of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis more than 50 years ago. I was a first-grader in attendance at the old St. Patrick’s Grade School, out in the country south of Atchison city limits. That particular old, white, “little” school house where pupils enrolled in first through fourth grades attended classes.
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was in power. He was married to a pretty wife named Jackie who was quite fashionable. They had a young daughter Caroline and a toddler son nicknamed “John John.”
Cuba was under the dictatorship rule of Fidel Castro. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was a Russian leader of some sort, Pope John XXIII led the Catholic Church and Queen Elizabeth was a much younger queen of England back in those days. Those facts comprised my knowledge of world politics. What else did a little kid need to absorb from observations?
I do recall one day back when I was a preschooler I engaged in one of my regular childhood activities in front of the television. Suddenly, my mother got upset because Khrushchev took off his shoe and beat it atop a table during some meeting with a lot of other men in suits gathered around. At the time, I didn’t understand his action and why Mom ranted about it. However, Khrushchev did leave quite a memorable impression on me.
I recall bits and pieces of news accounts concerning some Cold War incidents, but none of it made sense to me. It was early on in my first-grade year when it seemed like every day the sister would tell of the threat of nuclear war. We were reminded a nuclear war carried with it the threat to bring on the end of the world. The sisters urged us to be ready for judgement day.
I remember my thoughts from those lessons. If the world came to an end and death was imminent, I did not want to be at school. I wanted to be together with my mommy, daddy and my family members. During that winter we pupils were urged not to eat snow because there were possibilities it might be tainted with nuclear fallout. It was a relief to survive the crisis.
Throughout the past decades I’ve come to realize the threat of nuclear war does exist. I appreciate the strides in efforts to protect humanity and conserve the earth’s resources. It seems to be the natural progression based on the Golden Rule of “Do unto others …” and learn from mistakes and/or past experiences. Although the potential for doom and gloom remained I still continue to hope for the best.
However, in recent months some angst has returned amid some turns in current events and the threat is much closer. I admit I am not very trustful of some powers involved in the decision making process. This leaves faith as the key to get through whatever the outcome might be.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in 2017.