I used nationality, and to some extent culture, political creed and gender.
‘The fear is
never-ending’. It’s 1968, 21 years into the Cold war. Lyndon B. Johnson is the
President of the country where I am currently residing, The United States of
America. I am just a 15-year-old American girl living next to shore in Florida.
The world had already been at the brink of a nuclear war once during the Cuban
missile crisis of 1962. I was only 9 years old then but the memory of the
October crisis still runs deep. I remember the duck and cover drills that’d
we’d practice at school every day like it was yesterday. It used to instill
fear in my body and turn my rosy pink face as white as the chalk in my
As I’m sitting in
the last row of my class watching the time tick away, I start thinking about
how real the Cold war has become and how much it is affecting our daily lives.
My thoughts are interrupted as my teacher tells us about the special
announcements that are going to be made in a minute. She says that the special
announcements are from the government official, and are going to be broadcasted
through the radio. My teacher carefully pulls out a radio from her desk and
places it on the table in front of her. The broadcast begins.
As I look around
me, scanning my friends’ faces I notice that I’m not the only one riddled with
fear, we are all scared for our lives. I have imagined this happening in my
dreams a million times, the radio going off and the warning for a nuclear
attack coming through. As the announcements went on, my thoughts drift away to
six years ago, and how society was during the October crisis, realizing that
not much has changed. As Americans, the fear of a nuclear war is still upon us,
the bell at 10am every morning still goes off for the duck and cover drills.
The scared feeling inside me when I say goodbye to my parents while going to
school every morning is still there. Society, I thought, would’ve learnt and
changed from the days of the Cuban missile crisis but as I look around me, the
hazy view becomes much clearer just like my thoughts. The fear of communist takeover
still ignites the flames for a nuclear war even today. As the announcements
end, I turn and look towards my friends, all of us breathing a sigh of relief.
This isn’t the end.
I walk out of
class with my friends, the bell rings, the school day is over. Feeling
particularly distracted today after seeing the headlines on the newspaper that
slid under my front door, ‘Nuclear war likely’. I wonder if this is the last
day in this world for me, I wonder if this is the last day for us all.
I pick up my
books from my locker and stray away from my friends. I step outside my school
building and onto the road. With the communist uprisings and the red scare
happening all around me, it’s not safe for girls like me to walk home alone
even though I’m American, but what choice do I have? Feeling like a thousand
eyes are following my every step, I turn around and notice everyone hidden
inside their buildings, peering through the black tinted windows boarded up
with wood. In front of me I see people hurriedly moving food towards the bomb
shelter in their backyards. I walk as fast as I can, without looking back. I
trip over some rocks and a cut appears on my leg but that’s the least of my
worries right now. I just want to get home safely without feeling that a
nuclear bomb is coming right at me. The Space Race that started with the
Soviets launching Sputnik, disturbingly showed they had intercontinental
ballistic missile capabilities. Their nuclear missiles could now reach us which
is why I am so afraid. Sometimes I imagine Soviet troops coming across my
neighborhood. I foolishly wonder if I would and should shoot them with a rifle,
or just hide and run.
The main door
creaks as I slowly open it, I step into the darkness. Looking for my parents,
the stress and fear during these turbulent times comes back to me. As I look
for the switch, my heart races at a 1000 miles per hour, Where are my parents? Did
they get taken away to jail? Did the soviet spies break into our house? As the
light slowly starts glowing from the bulb across the room, I spot my parents
silently moving food into the bomb shelter, they gesture towards me to come
help them. I drop my bag in a corner and walk towards the boxes laid out on the
floor. One by one I pick up the unperishable food and survival equipment laid
out on the floor and neatly place it into the shelter area. The bomb shelter is
an oblong hole in the ground that we built for safety in case a nuclear attack
is upon us. My hands worked tirelessly until all the boxes are stored well
under the ground, but I still feel powerless. I feel as if I am being judged
for everything I do and say. There are only two types of Americans, those who
opposed communism or those who are communists. My safest bet is to stay quiet.
The principles that this nation was built on, the principles of freedom have
been forgotten, the same freedom that allows you to follow your beliefs now
puts you in jail.
I move towards
the broken radio on the table, I tap it twice to see if it works. A broadcast
of the Soviets driving tanks into Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution of
1956 begins, I turn it off immediately. Memories of 1956 comes flooding back to
me, I worry that Soviet tanks might soon be in my neighborhood too.
I step outside to
get some fresh air, despite my mother warning me to come back inside. As I
stumble upon the uneven pavement, the atmosphere around me circulates fear and
with that I fear how long this war will go on for, how long will I stay scared
and hidden from reality and its danger. Even though I wasn’t a part of it, I
know there was a time when fear like this didn’t exist. A time when there were
no rampages across the country. My role in society is one that is powerless, as
a fifteen-year-old girl, during this turbulent time I have no power to make a difference.
I have lost my ability to make a difference in my society because of the fear communist
uprisings has generated. I wonder if there will be a time when American girls
like me, brought up with the values that freedom and liberty will be able to speak
their minds without feeling afraid being attacked or thought of as a communist
and locked away. I hope I live long enough to be a part of that society.