There was a television documentary in the Sixties, in the depth of the Cold War, that examined how nuclear war with the Soviet Union would impact two cities in the United States: New York City and Tucson. New York was an obvious choice, given its prominence, but Tucson? In the 1960s, Tucson was home to a Strategic Air Command (SAC) facility and ringed by an array of 18 Title missiles armed with nuclear warheads, which made it a primary Soviet target. The documentarians’ cold assessment: at least a million people would perish in New York City; nobody in Tucson would survive.
A few days after that documentary, I dove under my desk at school as a siren wailed, a Death Banshee signaling a make-believe nuclear attack. My school was less than ten miles from Tucson’s SAC base and pretty much in the bullseye of the missile ring. I had seen the documentary, yet I played along, diving under my desk with my classmates when the siren wailed, acting like it would make a difference when I understood if I wasn’t incinerated by the fireball I’d be pulverized by the shock wave. We knew a lot about the effects of a nuclear blast back then, as we knew we were helpless pawns in history’s most dangerous chess match. That’s why we visited Jellystone Park.