Nuclear Apocalypse | Urban Living
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

Nuclear Apocalypse



The leader of North Korea keeps threatening to blow up the U.S. with nuclear bombs. Trump is currently visiting Asia to check on our preparations in case Kim Jong Un gets itchy fingers. Are you scared we might all be glowing with radiation in the near future? Are you ready for the apocalypse?

When I was a kid, the same nuclear threat occurred in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. Our country feared we were all going to be vaporized in mushroom clouds from our neighbors to the south of Florida. School children like myself were drilled to protect ourselves by hiding under our desks when an alarm sounded. Nowadays, kids still practice drills in case of a mass shooting, but back then, our teachers never spoke of guns—just bombs. Additionally, if we were able to crawl out from under our desks after the "attack," we were to go to the nearest "fallout shelter." These hiding spaces were set up all around the country in public buildings and served as emergency sanctuary to protect survivors from radiation until someone told us it was safe to leave. Inside the shelter there would be provisions, bedding, water, medical supplies, flashlights, batteries, etc., that might last a week, a month or a year. Generally, the shelters were in basements marked with yellow signs emblazoned with three black triangles.

The man who created that sign, Robert Blakeley, died on Oct. 25 at the age of 95. His sign of the times symbolized an era of fear during the Cold War, and it's just as real today as it was back then. However, we no longer have fallout shelters. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, SLC had at least four: the Masonic Temple, the Utah State Capitol, the Pioneer Memorial Museum and the YWCA. Yet, by the 1970s, we had enough shelters to house Utah's entire population. I recently called each of the four and no one I spoke with said the shelters would be available to use during an attack.

In 1962, it seemed every neighbor had dug up their backyard and installed a small underground bunker. My family, however, did not. I was terrified that we would die due to lack of planning. I asked my dad what we would do if we faced the end of the world and he said, "We'll just use the neighbor's shelter." That sorta made me calmer. Luckily, the missile crisis only lasted about two weeks before the threat vaporized itself.