[From Rourke: I was honored to be mentioned in a local Florida publication – www.tropictied.com. Here is the article.]
By Linda Leonardy
I have been wondering lately just why I seem to have this great need to prepare. At first I could not even acknowledge to myself just what it was I felt like I needed to prepare for.
Somewhere in between the unrealistic Reality TV shows on the subject and the doomsday direction of the news media was a warning that struck at the heart of my core belief system. It started with an interest in reading the shelf life of the items as I made my selections every time I went to the grocery store. It progressed to choosing BOGO offerings & putting one up for a rainy day. The way the economy was going it was already raining, what was I saving for a deluge?
Regrettably like others of my generation I find myself on the down hill side of 60, divorced and without a dragon to guard the gate. In what ever happens in these turbulent times I am going to have to be very creative and plan ahead. With that affirmation to myself I sat on a quest to do what I thought would be a little plan ahead activity and soon discovered what is today an entire lifestyle. I found myself spending endless hours surfing the internet trying to resolve the puzzle into something practical that at the very least masqueraded as realistic.
Well after much soul searching I at least have uncovered the hole in the direction most of the information I can find has smack dab in the middle of it. There is a lot of validity out there that is for sure. Planning for life at any level is the best of strategies. I myself am a goal setter from way back. What I couldn’t rationalize is why I felt like the information available, albeit by the young and the strong who will inherit this planet seemed off key.
I am certain that many of the folks who are Preppers have had some kind of wake up call or they themselves have experienced something abroad that has them working overtime to make a secure life for themselves and their families. So with some soul searching I thought it might assist those who know far more than me in perfecting their strategize if I shared with them what it really felt like to have to prepare for nuclear annihilation and the end of the world as you know it right here in our own back yard. Perhaps it is the bedtime story that their mother’s never told them. Or even more likely, perhaps most of the country just didn’t even know or really experience the real life horror of the events.
Let me take you back in time. It is 1962 and a lazy summer in a small, wealthy coastal town on Florida’s east coast. The winter seasonal homes were all closed up & the tourist were gone. We were busy making plans for a car trip to Cypress Gardens. Since my father’s family had been in Florida for more that 5 generations little concern was ever given to Hurricanes. They were a respected way of life and daddy always knew what to do. By the time I was a teenager even I had experienced my share. So when I would walk into a room and see the worried looks on the adults faces and catch phrases like Bay of Pigs it was becoming a moderate concern. The group of teenagers I grew up with had been pretty much together since grade school & it seemed like I was not the only one who was experiencing these strange adult behavior’s. Summer came to it’s inevitable end and excitement centered on preparation for my sophomore year in high school and the concern over my parent’s behavior became forgotten.
The events of that year no doubt effected the decisions that I would make the rest of my life. I was 14. My greatest concerns were passing drivers education and getting that coveted learners permit. When October arrived the small group of friends I grew up with spent most of their time, when not involved in their studies, planning sock hops & football game pep rallies. You can imagine that when a general assembly was announced over the loud speaker for all the students to meet in the auditorium that we thought something wonderful and fun was in store. Not so!
The principal came to the microphone and announced we all were going to begin a special level of education that would begin with a film series accompanied by a variety of evacuation drills that would be a bit more intense than the previous fire drills we were so use to. With that the lights dimmed, the projector rolled and my perception of a secure life was changed forever. We sat for what seemed hours and stared in horror at nuclear attack and devastation. When the lights came up the entire auditorium was in absolute silence. We were asked if there were any questions. I do not remember if there were. But emblazoned in my brain to this day are the images of the mushroom cloud, the trees bursting into flame and the startled deer disintegrating before your eyes. It was of course compounded as the series of films continued. The evacuation drills ramped up and we were loaded onto busses that would never hold the whole student population, and driven the 20 miles home and then back to school to see if it could be accomplished. When the authorities discovered it could not, those of us that lived outside the 3 mile walk home range were issued body tags with little wire wraps that we had to carry on us at all times. It was one of the first things I disposed of when I graduated from high school!
As October started closing in on Halloween I became aware of the fact that my father, who was a city council man, was suddenly going to a lot more meetings and that my mother was accompanying him. Suddenly it was October 25th and President Kennedy was going to DEFCON 2. When the island of Cuba is so close that you knew your grandmother use to go over in its days of glory to enjoy the tropical nightlife, you just have a hard time assimilating the knowledge that it is a precursor to your own personal sense of doom! I had shared class with a shy Phys Ed partner whose family had escaped, her father was a physician as I recall, and she had regaled me with stories about how they had got out in time. But, wow, now we were talking about would we reach adult hood, fall in love, marry and be able to have children. Home Economics had spent hours explaining to the girls the ramifications of radiation fall out on the reproduction system. On Friday morning the 26th of October, my mother came into my bedroom as I was preparing for school. I remember the experience as if it were yesterday and it was almost 50 years ago! She sat on the edge of my bed, most unlike her and said she needed to talk to me. She told me she was keeping me home from school that day. I could do what I wanted as long as I stayed very close to home. She didn’t want to alarm me. As if she could at that point. I do not believe we ever spoke of all the efforts going on by the school system. I don’t think she even knew. But she said the city had been on Martial Law standby. The town had assigned various tasks to the towns people and that the government would notify them if the plans put in place needed to be activated. I only knew about this of course becausemy parents were involved, these meeting and planning had been done very quietly so not to upset the towns population. It had been determined that South Florida in all likely hood would be a direct target hit. There would be mass evacuation and the South Florida population would run out of gas and arrive on our door step all at once if they got out at all. Therefore a huge amount of preparation had gone under way to mitigate this event. The important thing she wanted me to know was she had been assigned to drive a rescue vehicle and I was assigned with her. She was a clever woman, having lived thru the great depression unscathed and taken care of my sister through the trial and tribulations of World War II. In the great scheme of things and hindsight being what it is there had not been that much subsequent time. She had determined in her almighty wisdom that it would be far safer for me to be with her doing something productive then to sit at home hiding. So there I was all of 14 years old reevaluating dating and driving to needing to stay alive in order to grow up so I could.
I do not really recall much about Saturday October 27th, 1962 except that I went outside to watch the sunset. I remember saying a small prayer. I remember thanking God for the day and letting him know I would take very good care of all the days that would come. We continued however to have those evacuation drills from time to time through out my High School Years and we continued to have the films, with maybe a little less intensity, or maybe I just grew up. Either way I have appreciated every day the freedom that this great country of ours has given us. How ever I fear the faint rumbling of the thunder is signaling stormy waters ahead.
We need to always be prepared but perhaps again now more then in the recent past. Somehow I feel it in my bones. But then there isn’t a multi generational Floridian alive that hasn’t always had a shelf full of non perishables and a way to put up extra water. We know what it fells like without air conditioning and if you run out of mosquito repellent after a storm. But some how now we need to be thinking a bit broader, you know just in case. But with some practicality. If my youth experience has taught me anything, it is that unless you really are in a target zone and you may not live to react to it, in reality it is more feasible to look around and make where you are as survivable as possible. Even a total economic collapse will have the same ramifications but without the fallout. I do not know enough about modern day survival, I wish I did. But I am totally certain that the jump in the car bug out is only going to take you to a less familiar place, with all the same problems, maybe more then was left behind. I truly wish I knew how to implement what is available today with the experiences of a lifetime I have lived with, but I do not. I am however working on it.