13 days in October

13 days in October

That is the length of time ascribed to the Cuban missile crisis. It is said that President Kennedy was informed of the missiles, took action and found a resolution of one of the most complex issues in the history of the world all in 13 days. During that time the world teetered on the brink of nuclear annihilation. I was six when this occurred and my parents were scared beyond belief. I lived less than 6 miles form a major air force base where nuclear strike aircraft were stationed. A B58 Hustler strike force was stationed there and all employees of the base were called in and told to cancel all plans. They were confined to base and the B58 aircraft were perched at the end of the runway engines running ready to take off on Presidential order.

13 days of fear and panic in Southern Florida, where ground troops were being amassed for invasion of Cuba. It was also thought to be one of the first places the Soviets would strike if their missiles and long range bombers were launched.

13 days in October is what this incident came to be known. In my home town, as in many others, it came to be known as 13 days of terror. I would be lying if I didn’t say it scared the people of my neighborhood to death. My neighborhood was home to several Air Force families and their children played in our local parks. At school I was in 1st grade and my class including the children of air force personnel practiced “duck and cover drills” almost every day during those two weeks. Everyone I knew was scared.

This all occurred at the same time my family was in turmoil. In September of that year my mother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. While the world and the country braced in fear, my family added all sorts of strange things to our cupboards. A scale, urine testing supplies, and new sheets of paper with diets littered my home’s dining room table. My family acquired glass syringes, and steel needles. Diet Rite and Tab replaced Coke –A- Cola in our house. We learned of boiling syringes and needles, 4 plus, coverage shots, and something called exchanges were added to our family lexicon. Boxes labeled R and L were added to our refrigerator.

In October my family watched as the world froze in anticipation of destruction. My city faced a terrible truth that even my little home town was vulnerable. My family worried about Russians, missiles, and insulin lows. We learned of high alerts and high sugars. We discussed diabetic complications and swift retaliation. We held our breath about blockades and winced from twice daily injections.

Yes 13 days in October was important to our world and October was important to our family. We faced nuclear terror and a diabetic reality that was beyond our imagination just a few months earlier.

October 28 1963 was declared the end the Cuban missile crisis, but my house remained in high alert. My mother was ill. As a six year old I was worried about missiles and the terrible lows I saw. I was concerned with boiling syringes and sterilizing steel needles. Yes the Cuban missile crisis ended and I was happy about that. But, the family crisis had just begun.

My mother passed from this earth in 1986. She had many complications as a result of diabetes. It scared me a great deal as a child. I always think about the mutual national relief that was felt when the missiles were dismantled. I always thought dismantling the US missiles in Turkey was a beautifully executed compromise. I have always admired President Kennedy for his handling of the crisis.

I wish someone could have given my mom a better outcome. When I think of October I think of Cuba and I think of my mom. I wish I could think of neither and instead enjoy October for being October.



Picture of a B58 Hustler:

I remember those 13 days very well. On Day 13 the tension was truly unbearable. We lived in an apartment house in New York at the time, my husband was at work, two kids at school and a little one with me. My neighbor/friend, also with a little one, knocked on my door and said, I can't stand to watch the TV, so will you watch it and tell me if the world blows up? I said Sure! So I watched the TV and later that day told her, President Kennedy and Kruschev came to an agreement, so the world will not blow up. What a day!

Years later I was talking to my mother about all this. She was an elementary school teacher in the Northwest. She said her instructions had been to have the children get into their lockers for protection. She refused and said to me with her usual grave humor: "What, put 'em in their lockers and let 'em fry?"!!!

I didn't have any diabetes to worry about then, thankfully. That was all certainly a lot for you to deal with at the age of six.

can you imagine what my mother went through in france during ww2 with me t1 since i was 3?i don't know how we made it but here i am :))

Hi Shoshana. It's hard to imagine what your mother went through in those terrible years, and you as well. My parents had a bit of that fear right after Pearl Harbor. We lived in the Northwest near an Army base, with the Navy not far away, so we were certainly vulnerable to bombing. My parents considered sending my brother and me to live with relatives inland, but fortunately we stayed home and were not bombed.

Shoshana: I cannot imagine how difficult it would have been to be your mother. I am so glad your mom got you to us. You are a treasure. Thanks for the comment.

mother & father