(from the soon-to-be published novel Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)
A U-2 spy plane flying over Cuba photographed what experts believed to be rocket-launching sites under construction. The Soviet Union had been providing Castro’s regime with arms and defensive weapons. When questioned by President Kennedy about the missile sites, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko insisted the construction was solely for the purpose of contributing to Cuba’s defensive capabilities. Kennedy wasn’t convinced. He put the country’s military on high alert and ordered more U-2 flights.
Weeks later, new photographs showed that the missile sites could indeed be equipped with mid-range ballistic missiles and outfitted with nuclear warheads capable of reaching targets within the United States. There was no sign of the missiles themselves. The government was convinced they hadn’t yet been delivered and became determined to keep them from arriving.
Kennedy decided to go public. He addressed the nation in a news conference on the night of October 22nd. The leader who’d smiled so beamingly so many times before in his televised news conferences wasn’t smiling on this occasion. With a grim, somber demeanor he used enlargements of U-2 photographs to show the public the launching sites. He stated that intelligence reports confirmed that nineteen Soviet ships were currently en-route to Cuba. A number of them carried nuclear warheads.
“It shall be the policy of this nation…” Kennedy intoned, “…to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
He further announced a naval blockade of the waters surrounding Cuba. Kennedy ordered U.S. warships to stop and board any Russian ships for the purposes of inspecting their cargo.
The world stood on the brink of nuclear war.
“We’re fine, Joseph, just fine.” Solomon Rabinowitz told his son when they spoke on the telephone the next day. Joseph was concerned about his parents living in a house off the intercostals causeway near Miami Beach, Florida. While he never once mentioned the missile crisis or Kennedy’s speech, he knew his father was aware that this was more than a social call.
“Say hello to your mother.” Solomon instructed him.
“Hi, Mama.” Joseph said as pleasantly as he could when Myra got on the line. Janet stood close by trying to hear both sides of the conversation.
“The whole world has gone crazy, Joseph.” His mother told him sounding more angry than frightened.
“I know. All we can do is hope that Kennedy and Khrushchev keep their wits about them and somehow back away from this.”
“We can do more than that, Joseph. We can pray. We can pray very hard”
That solution didn’t lessen Joseph’s concern. “I’m going to put Janet on the line Mama.”
He handed the receiver to his wife then stepped away to give her some privacy.
“Hello, Mama.” Janet said, smiling in the comfort of hearing Myra’s voice.
“Hello, my dear. How are you holding up during this awful time?”
“We’re okay. It’s just so weird here. The whole city seems to be holding its breath waiting for something bad to happen. The streets are so quiet…there’s hardly any traffic…everyone is glued to their TV sets waiting for news.” After a long pause Janet covered the mouthpiece and spoke to Joseph. “She says we should all pray.” Joseph simply nodded.
The two women spoke for a few minutes more before Joseph took the receiver. He told his mother he loved her, and then hung up.
He told Janet that he had to go back to the studio. After he’d gone Janet sat on the couch and cried. She recalled a time when he never would have left her alone. How he would have remained there by her side to comfort her, assure her that her he-man would protect her from any harm. Instead she sat alone with the fear of the television broadcast interrupted by a news bulletin. The shrill beeping of the emergency alert system might sound, sending her down to the air raid shelter in the basement of their building. There she’d wait for an all-clear signal or bombs to fal
The situation came to a head on October 26th when the United States Navy boarded the Russian freighter Marluca. With no weapons found aboard, the ship continued on to Cuba. The action convinced the Russians that the Americans were prepared to enforce the blockade. Castro sent Premier Khrushchev an impassioned plea to allow nuclear missiles to rain down on America. But the Russian leader had no real desire for such a confrontation. He ordered any ships carrying weapons to reverse course and head home.
The two nuclear powers negotiated a deal that would see the dismantling of the missile sites in Cuba and a guarantee that the Russians would no longer send any more offensive weapons to its Latin American ally. In return, the U.S. would soon abandon missile sites they had in Turkey. The crisis in Cuba was over.
Rock and Roll quote of the day: Treat me right, must you run now. For the nights just begun now. Honey please...won't you stay awhile with me?" From: "Stay Awhile" by Dusty Springfield.