The Beginning of My Activism
It was fall, 1962. I was 13 years old and the world was on the brink of a nuclear war. This time the given reason was the deployment of missiles in Cuba by the Russians. Something, apparently, the United States disagreed with. I remember those days as if they occurred last week. I spent six months of my life in constant stress. If I slept, I had nightmares about nuclear war. While awake I constantly thought of nuclear war and the destruction that would result, including my death.
I remember the federal Canadian Government Organization called the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), telling me that in the event of a nuclear attack while I was at school, I should hide under my desk. Remember, I was 13 and even at that age, I knew that “under the desk” was where they would find the vapour from the nuclear explosion. Provided of course, there was someone around to look for the vapour.
I remember one particular Monday evening. I know it was Monday because I delivered the Star Weekly magazine on that day. It was September in Winnipeg and after 6:00 p.m. when the sun was setting and the street getting dark. Suddenly the air was filled with the unprecedented sound of air raid sirens. I panicked and running to the first house I could find, pounded on the door. The man who met me immediately recognized my problem, tried to answer my stream of questions quickly and attempted to calm me. He put me in front of his television to show me that the sirens were part of what the EMO referred to as a “mock nuclear attack”, and I should not be afraid.
How dare my government do this to a 13-year-old child? They staged a “mock nuclear attack”, sounding air raid sirens without warning. I knew I had to do something to prevent a complete personal collapse. I sought people with whom I could discuss these issues and who were already doing something about the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
I joined a peace movement and learned what “one person can do”.