Bomb Drills

Do kids today talk about missiles, like we did in the 50s?

When I was a 6th-grader walking home with friends from elementary school in the 50s, we would talk about all the interesting things heard in the news, like the Boston Braves leaving Boston or the first man to conquer Mt. Everest. We wondered what it was like to be Castro, a rebel hiding in a Cuban forest. But mostly we worried about atomic bombs, and the Rosenbergs selling tech secrets to our enemies. We heard the Russians tested a megaton bomb and were catching up to us faster than expected. They launched the first satellite into orbit, Sputnik 1, and that concerned us.

It was kind of scary going through a bomb drill in school. The clarion bell jolted us. Then we’d “duck and cover” under our desks, with hands over our heads to protect us from shards of window glass shattered by an atomic shock wave. Aftermath photos of the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki got us sad for the kids there who died. We were curious if our dads would build bomb shelters, how much food and water would be stored, how Geiger counters work, and how long nuclear fallout would make us live underground.

Later, in October 1962, the world waited for thirteen days, seemingly on the brink of nuclear war, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban missile crisis. Premier Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy were sparring over Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba, close enough to nuke our capitol to smithereens. Those two men juggled civilization’s survival. The whole world breathed a sigh of relief when WWIII was avoided by the U.S. counteroffer to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.

Do kids today talk to each other about bombs? Perhaps they and their parents worry more over an insane school shooting. Shelter-in-place practices and barricading classroom doors are the result of crazed shooters.

Most Americans are distracted from the current Ukraine crisis and other far-away troubles by their worry over domestic issues and COVID. What if grocery shelves remain empty because truckers get sick or go on a convoy strike? How do we keep pace with 10% inflation? What if more lockdowns cause the stock market to trash our 401Ks? With media focusing on divisive issues like transgenderism, climate change, immigration, voter fraud, and cancel culture, only a vigilant few seniors or students of history are worried about the tense international situation.

Today I happened to see a BBC News clip of a new Borei-A class Russian ballistic missile submarine surfacing off America’s eastern shore. Our Navy has not been able to track its sophisticated propulsion system, which makes it doubly dangerous. The sub can fire 16 missiles, each with 10 nuclear warheads aimed to reach anywhere in America in mere minutes. Russia now has 11 of these advanced nuclear subs and is building more. The 11 make for 1,760 missiles aimed at 300 major American cities with populations exceeding 100,000.

Of course, the U.S. has as many, or more, submarines and ballistic missiles aimed at Russia and China. This quiet but constant threat of WWIII dwarfs all our domestic concerns. The situation could quickly become worse than the Cuban Crisis, but unlike in 1962, the American people seem undisturbed by it all.

I guess folks figure it’s useless to worry about such things. “Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Epicurus would have been proud that pure hedonism is our primary pursuit. Many will be eating, drinking, and making merry on the day devastation comes upon us, sudden and unexpected (cf. Isaiah 47:11).

The worried boy in me finds it alarming that mankind now has the means for a global catastrophe the likes of which defies portrayal by any dystopian film. It is too easily accomplished in minutes by a trembling hand pushing a red button. What seems absurd is that the future of humanity’s 10,000-year history depends on how two men ate and slept the night before.

In 1947, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, in a radio talk, that only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world. The great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on. “Those who have the faith had better keep in the state of grace and those who have neither had better find out what they mean, for in the coming age there will be only one way to stop your trembling knees, and that will be to get down on them and pray.” He continued, “The most important problem in the world today is your soul, for that is what the struggle is about. The only way out of this crisis is spiritual because the trouble is not in the way we keep our books, but in the way we keep our souls. The time is nearer than you think.”

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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