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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Daniel Ruth: Duck & Cover? Fix a drink, instead, if a nuclear bomb ever threatens

Iam a child of the "Duck & Cover" generation.

Back in the 1950s and into the 1960s, periodically, my grade school would conduct a drill on what to do if a nuclear weapon exploded over the skies of Akron. In the event of a thermonuclear blast, we were supposed to crawl under our school desks and cover our heads and stay put — presumably for the next 700 years.

Even as a child, you didn't need to be J. Robert Oppenheimer to figure out as a self-defense plan "Duck & Cover" was at best — ahem — flawed.

Then came October 1962, when the world really did seem on the brink of actual nuclear conflict during those tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and a young President John F. Kennedy faced off against the Soviet Union's efforts to place offensive weapons 90 miles from our shores.

I was 13. And I still have vivid memories of thinking a small, enclosed area under our front porch might make for a good fallout shelter. My father was mildly amused and then went and fixed a drink, which would seem the only real option if the big one does indeed eventually come along.

Fallout shelters used to be ubiquitous. As recently as the late 1970s, many buildings in downtown Tampa still featured the yellow fallout shelter sign. And I once did a story about a rather large fallout shelter underneath the University of South Florida campus. The emergency food rations, medical supplies and cots were still there. Body bags, too.

Now North Korea has started making nettlesome noises about its ability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon. And that has raised the possibility — albeit rather remote — that Kim Jong Un, the boy tyrant of the hermit kingdom, might someday spin the globe and when it stops, his stubby little fingers will be pointing at Tampa Bay.

After all, Tampa is home to MacDill Air Force Base, which, in addition to being the home to a massive tanker refueling wing, houses Central Command and Special Operations Command.

Days ago Tampa Bay Times reporter Howard Altman, who covers military affairs, penned a fascinating, if not chilling, piece on what would happen if MacDill indeed found itself the target of a nuclear attack.

Altman's piece detailed exactly what would happen if MacDill happened to be ground zero. In short, it would be horrific. More pointedly, we would all be toast — literally.

And that's the thing about such an horrifically horrible prospect as the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. No amount of ducking or covering will do anyone any good.

And as highly unlikely as a nuclear conflict may seem, even if one of the parties is certifiably nuts (you decide which one), it is still sobering that 72 years after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, there is still conjecture they could be used again. And they could be used here.

Have we learned nothing?

MacDill is one of this region's most important assets. It employs thousands of people and pumps billions of dollars into the economy. The base is a good neighbor. And MacDill is a vital centurion protecting the national security of the country.

But its presence is also a vivid reminder of the dangerous world we live in.

What to do if the unthinkable ever happened? Duck & Cover is not an option.

If you survived the initial boom, you might well have just enough time to fix yourself a good stiff drink and wait for nature to take its course.

In the end, 55 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, father still knows best.

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