Growing up in the 1960s our parents and grandparents and teachers had a recent memory of nuclear bombs actually going off, being used to kill people. Everybody was terrified of nuclear war: terrified. As if the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t enough to keep everybody traumatized by fear, we had yet another concern added on: Russian nuclear weapons just off the Florida coast. The Cuban Missile crisis rattled everybody.
But just for an extra measure of fear, at my elementary school we fourth graders (9 years of age) were shown films of nuclear bombs going off, of the results of the bombs going off, and shown rows of tombstones to represent how many people could be killed. The terrors of ordinary atomic bombs were bad enough. But the final dramatic moment in one of the films was the introduction of the super-effective HYDROGEN bomb. Representing the vast power were rows upon rows upon rows of tombstones. But only the lucky ones would be killed immediately. The rest of the people near a nuclear explosion would throw up for a month or so and then die. To protect against these shattering dangers, they taught us to hide under our desks. Even a 9 year old can realize the futility of this act.
I could feel the chunks rising right there in my class; literally. I would feel extremely nauseous during the films. I was terrified.
And of what?
A false Russian threat? A possible future event that never came to be. What a waste of childhood innocence being stripped.