“Good morning ma'am.” says the one in front, a young male with glasses and curly, deep red hair. “We were wondering if we could interview you for a school report?”
“Be my guest,” I respond, cautiously. “Although how I can help you, I have no idea. Please, come in.”
Once I have them all seated, I ask, “What is your report on?”
“We have to pick an event from the Cold War and do a research project on it,” starts a girl with thick, waist length shiny black hair and pale skin.
“My mom told us you worked for the government during the Cuban Missile Crisis, so we decided to choose that. We were hoping to ask you about what happened, to get some first hand experience to enhance our project,” adds a boy with messy, pale gold hair that seems to eternally be in his eyes.
I am shocked that they thought of interviewing someone to get a first hand account. I smile. Maybe all of today’s kids haven’t been hopelessly lost to video games. “At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was the Secretary of State in President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's cabinet. Dean Rusk had gone into temporary retirement three months before due to a boating accident. The public hadn’t been notified of the change in who was holding the position because Rusk was expected to be back before Kennedy’s term was over.”
I looked at the group to see the untidy haired boy taking notes and the first girl holding what appears to be a tape recorder. I frown for a moment, wishing that they had asked for my permission to record this interview, but I decide not to mention it. Instead, I lose myself in memories.
“At the time we are talking about, I was unmarried. My name was simply Beverly Rose Claron. My parents, Florence Ethel Manson Claron and Frank Edward Claron, were still living in in the same place I spent my childhood, Tallahassee, Florida. I was thrilled to have a chance to be part of the federal government, even if it was only temporarily. I felt like my career in politics was finally starting. But, enough about me. I’ll start with what you are here for.
“Kennedy was passing by me on his way to a brief meeting about what was going on in regards to the U2 pictures on that first day. He stopped looked at me and said, ‘You’re the new girl, the one who’s subbing for Dean.’ I responded, ‘uh’ and a series of quick nods. “Good. Why don’t you come with me. Dean was always helpful in this sort of situation. Who knows, if you do a great job, you might find yourself as a permanent employ of mine.” Kennedy gave me a strained smile.
“Uh, Yes sir, Mr. President sir. Right away sir,” I was surprised that I was to be involved in such important doings. Imagine me, an unannounced substitute for a very important government official, being invited into a meeting about Soviet, nuclear missiles in Cuba! And invited in by none other than our President JFK himself! I never would have thought that I would be part of something, so… major.”
“Excuse me ma'am. Could you tell us about the missiles, and who the Soviets are. Where they another, what’s the world superpower?” the redhead interrupts.
“Well…” I pause, trying to figure out how to address him.
“Oh, my name is Cody. That’s Jennifer, Brian, Taylor, and Angela.” he points to the black-haired girl, messy haired boy, and one who hasn’t talked yet, a tan brunette, and another girl, this one with blonde hair, in turn.
“Thank you. Well, the missiles were put there by sovi… You did ask who the Soviets were?” I stop mid word, Worried about what I thought I heard.
“That is a question, is that a problem?” Angela speaks up in a hesitant tone. She stared at me, concern etched across her face.
“Do you know anything, about the Cuban MIssile Crisis... or the Cold War?” I stared at them, now more than a little worried about this situation.
“The world was blown up by mushroom’s.”
Those are the responses I get. I stared at them, wide eyed, wondering what American education had come to.
“Or was it ferrets that destroyed life as we knew it?” the last kid adds, the one who I think was introduced as Brian.
“Oh my gosh! They’re coming for us!” Taylor’s first words are hysterical shouts of terror.
“No! No! No! Ferrets, mushrooms! What are you talking about? No one is coming for any of us! The whole reason that you would study the Cuban Missile Crisis was because the US managed to avoid a situation that would have destroyed humanity!” Taking a deep breathe, I regain control. “Excuse me for a minute.” Jumping up, I quickly slip into my kitchen and began bustling around, checking the fridge and pantry, peeking a jar here and there, and searching through storage. Within five minutes I am heading back in the living room.
“Would anyone like sugar cookies or lemonade?” I offer. The response is unanimous.
Treats have been divided without too much of a scuffle and the floor is mine, emptied of any distractions.
“Now let’s see… where to began explaining the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis?” I ponder that for a moment, but then the words come.
“After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and Hirohito, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union grew and grew. The two superpowers were competing not only to see who was number one, but also to spread democracy and communism respectively throughout the world. However, since the countries never directly attacked each other, the time period of their clashing philosophies was known as the Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis was a major stand off in this rivalry.
“It started with US spy planes taking pictures of Cuba, a country under the USSR’s communist control, that showed Soviet nuclear missile bases being set up. The following thirteen days was an intense period of time, filled with fear of a nuclear war beginning. President Kennedy had to decide whether to respond to this threat by invading Cuba or a naval blockade of the waters surrounding Cuba. There was some talk with foreign ministries in the many meetings to decide which option to choose. As the days passed, the quarantine was chosen as the best option and measures were taken to prepare, including talking to former presidents and alerting the public to the situation. As the plan fell into place and the ships arrived at their positions, another issue surfaced, soviet submarines. The world then waited in terror as the both Kennedy and the Soviet president Khrushchev had a tense period of communication. The two sides finally came to agreement in which the USSR would remove their missiles under the watchful eye if the UN and the US would agree not to invade Cuba and to eventually extract their own secret weapons from Turkey. Citizens were able to let out a sigh of relief and relax. The Cuban Missile Crisis had come to a peaceful end.” my voice fades at the end, as my mind is filled with images of photos, letters, speeches, locked doors, anxious faces, all things I saw during my part in those stomach churning, mind boggling, world changing thirteen days.
“So, that was a brief overview of the Cuban Missile Crisis?” asks Angela, pulling me away from my thoughts to get a nod.
“Excellent!” she responds with a smile.
I gently pick up a small leather bound journal from the tale, my diary from those terrifying days. “Would you all like to hear more about my personal experiences?” I question, quietly.
“Yes please!” exclaims Cody.
With a smile, I open the book and prepare to fall back into some of my most interesting memories.