It's barely 5:30 AM. I'm in the uber-hip offices of NPR in Los Angeles waiting to be called into the studio.
I'm cooling my heels in the lobby as I wait to be summoned into a recording studio to tape a segment about my recollections of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
October 22, 1962. I was only 7 years old and my family was living in Miami when I first heard that the world was about to come to an end. And it had something to do with Cuba. Of course.
Those days come back to my memory like grainy snapshots:
- Duck and cover drills at school where we had to hide under our desks. (Seriously, people?)
- Dinner conversations about what city might be the first to be hit. (We agreed, rather dispassionately, as I recall, that it would most likely be New York.)
- If the Russians were to start World War III from Cuba, would Cubans then be sent to camps like the Japanese during World War II?
- Nikita Kruschev (the name of the Soviet Premier at that time) was fun to say.
- President John F. Kennedy had betrayed the Cuban troops in April of 1961 at the Bay of Pigs. Could he be trusted this time when the entire world was poised for nuclear destruction?
- Would anyone be left standing?
Today marks the 50th anniversary (!) of the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was invited to share my Childhood Memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis on NPR with host Michel Martin. The segment is called Tell Me More. It will be airing today around 1:00 pm PST – click on the link at that time to listen. (I think I sound much taller on the radio, but that's not important right now.)
I remember the entire episode in a surreal and fearful manner. The world was on the brink of nuclear destruction and I would probably not live to see my 8th birthday. What a world.
Fidel Castro is on his deathbed as I write this. Wouldn't it be fitting if his life ended today? It would just be so much easier to remember the date that way.