Back in Wisconsin, the teenage Jashinsky had her own thoughts. "I had seen the images of nuclear bombs and knew there was no way that we could be safe," she says. "But my mother would reassure my brothers and me that there was no reason to attack our small Wisconsin town. Little did we know that an Air Force base called Volk Field near us was under alert on Friday, Oct. 26. An alarm had been transmitted and pilots were preparing for a Russian attack. The F-106 planes were fully armed nuclear interceptors. But the alarm proved false. However, communications were so primitive that a jeep had to race down the runway to stop the first plane after receiving the message to cancel the sabotage alert."
Jashinsky, like so many others who lived through that terrifying month, never forgot her deep fears. This year, the 50th commemoration of the crisis, Jashinsky decided to put together a creative exhibition entitled 13 Days + 13 Nights, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis which is now on display at the Civilian Arts Project Gallery in downtown DC.
The centerpiece of the show is a small TV set, painted in a bright mint green that was so popular in the 60s. On the screen is displayed a movie created by Jashinsky that captures the essence of each of the 13 days of the crisis. She mixes historical footage with snippets of TV shows and commercials. In a word, the juxtaposition of the cheerful images of time with the dramatic news footage is chilling.
But perhaps the dominating feature of the exhibit is the steadily ticking clock sound which is part of the movie soundtrack. It reminds us that while the Cuban Missile Crisis ended well, time moves on and we still live in a world of hatred and war. In 1962, the countdown was silenced. But the ticking could resume at any time. And if it ever begins again, we can only hope that the outcome is the same. Any other outcome could leave us with no one alive to hear the ticking.
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