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by GShan9
Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #1906171
During the Christmas Eve after the Cuban Missile Crisis — a young girl has a big shock!
T'was the Night Before NORAD"...

December 24, 1962

(Christmas Eve Night)

It was almost two months after the tense days of the Cold War known as "The Missiles of October", when the U.S.A. came the closest ever to full-out nuclear holocaust war against Cuba and the USSR, when photographs from a USAF U2 airplane ("spy plane") showed nuclear missile sites being installed in Cuba, aimed at various parts of the USA.

One of them was pointed at Washington D.C., where the President lived, one was pointed at the populous city of New York City, and one was pointed straight at Plattsburgh AFB, because that was where the U.S. military Air Force planes were stationed to defend Washington, D.C. (and the whole East Coast) against a first strike by the USSR and Cuba. (They lived at "Ground Zero", and they KNEW it!)

President Kennedy had handled the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, and (Thank Goodness) there was no start to a "hot" war (yet) between the USA, Cuba, and the USSR. But everybody in the country was still very tense. War still could break out at ANY moment!

Nobody in the entire country was more tense than members of the U.S. Air Force families, and their military fathers. They were to be ready at all times should the "unthinkable" happen — full-out nuclear war. They were the first ones to be called into action to defend our country should war break out.

Little four-year-old Tina was the youngest of three children in her family. Her father was a military pilot in the USAF, stationed at Plattsburgh AFB, in upstate Plattsburgh, NY. Her 10-year-old brother, Bobby, was ice skating at a Christmas party this Christmas Eve night with his friends. It was very cold outside, and very dark. Her 14-year old sister, Tracy was at her best friend's house enjoying a party there.

"They should be home soon," her mother said to her father. Tina and her parnts were enjoying the lights from their Christmas tree in the other room while listening to Christmas music on the hi-fi stereo in the living room. Her dad read the newspaper and her mother continued with her knitting. Her needles went "clack clack clack" rhythmically.

Little Tina lay on the carpet in front of the hi-fi on her stomach, in the middle of the living room floor, coloring in her Disney "Cinderella" coloring book. Her legs were bent at the knees, and her ankles were suspended above her body, ankles crossed behind her, as she would occasionally wiggle one foot or the other up or down (just a little bit) as she colored in her book (with a flourish) with her fat 8 Crayola crayons.

The hi-fi played one Christmas song after another, occasionally interrupted only by commercials. She especially loved the songs by the Ray Conniff singers, especially "Christmas Bride" and "Sleigh Ride."  But at the top of every hour the News Announcer would read the latest news stories of the day, keeping everyone abreast of what was going on in the world.

Eight o'clock had passed, then nine o'clock passed (with the same news), and finally the 10 o'clock news reported "Parents, it's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" (They did this every night because of curfews for teens, to keep them out of trouble.) The TV did it too, every night, exactly at 10 p.m.

Tina looked up at her mom and dad and grinned. She KNEW that both her brother and sister were still out. Ten o'clock was curfew for kids in their area. But they knew where they were, and with whom, and knew that a responsible adult would be driving them home any minute, and they would be dropped off, and walk in the door (hopefully) any minute.

But Tina was anxious. She didn't want to go to bed until they made it home safely. But she WAS getting very sleepy, and growing tired listening to the seasonal music, lulling her to occasionally nod off while coloring. And soon Santa would be there! If she were still awake when he arrived he might skip over her house! She DREADED THAT happening!

Then suddenly the male Announcer's voice sounded very upset. He quickly read a news report. NORAD operators at the base saw on radar something flying through the air quickly over Arctic space, heading straight for their Air Force Base — and they feared it MIGHT be nuclear missiles (or Russian fighter jets armed with nuclear warheads) launched from Moscow, USSR.

How could the Russians launch nuclear war on Christmas Eve? How DARE they? Whatever happened to "Peace on Earth and Good Will to All Men"

How could the world end TONIGHT of ALL nights?? Tomorrow would be Christmas! Tina's little eyes filled quickly with tears and started crying, looking at her tree in the next room twinkling. They had a brand new silver Christmas tree in that room, with two color wheels turning, one on one side of the tree, and the other on the directly opposite side of the tree. (This filled in all the shadows with dancing colored lights.) Some presents were already stacked underneath the branches, but she expected (& hoped?) more would arrive via Santa Claus and his reindeer by morning. How could they spoil everything on Christmas Eve? Or Christmas Day??

The News Announcer said that Plattsburgh AFB jets were scrambling into the air that very minute to get a bird's eye view verification ("visual contact") on the missiles, (or whatever it was) winging their way toward Plattsburgh AFB from across the Arctic north. Outside she heard the roar of several jets take off at the nearby flight line. One by one she heard each jet take off in quick succession. How could this be happening? Especially now! But it WAS happening! She heard the jets take off! Where was her brother and sister? Did they know?

Her mother and father went to the front door to look and see if her brother and sister were coming home yet or not. The cold wind blew into the living room, so they quickly closed the door back up. They went back to their living room chairs, and sat on the edges of their seats wringing their hands, waiting for more news, but trying not to look worried in front of their young child. About five long, tense minutes passed by while they waited for news of what the pilots saw winging their way from the far north. Ten minutes passed. Every heart beat was up in their throats. Butterflies were flying in formation in their stomachs.

Then finally the Announcer came back on the hi-fi, interrupting a Christmas song about "peace on earth". He said that our jets HAD made visual contact, and that, {Thank Goodness!} it was NOT USSR war jets, and it was NOT nuclear missiles about to rain down nuclear holocaust upon them, but INSTEAD it was a little sleigh flying through the air, with a little fat man in a red and white fur snow suit driving it, being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

Tina stood up and yelled: "OH NO! THEY'RE GONNA SHOOT SANTA!!! Daddy!!!!! DO something!!! NO! NOOOOOO!!!"

Her parents grinned at each other (in quick relief) and quickly scooped her up into their arms to comfort her, "No, Sweetie, they won't shoot Santa! They'll just give him a military escort here, safe and sound!"

Then the News Announcer confirmed what her daddy had just said. In a much calmer voice, he said, "The Air Force jets will give Santa a personal escort to the United States, so you children — you better get to bed NOW — RIGHT AWAY because Santa will be here VERY soon! Any minute!"

Tina stared at the hi-fi speakers, where the voice emanated from. How could she go to bed before her brother and sister got home? But she didn't want Santa to see her still up when he arrived, so she gave her mom and dad each a quick hug and a kiss, then ran upstairs to her bedroom.

Her mother followed her, and tucked her in, giving her another kiss and a hug. "Sleep tight, Sugar-Pudding," her mother said. Then her dad poked his head in her bedroom door, and said, "Good night, Monkey! You go to sleep now. You don't want Santa to see you still awake."

Just then they heard her brother and sister come in downstairs. She shut her eyelids as hard as she could. Her heart was racing a mile a minute. How could she fall asleep? Then she let out a huge yawn. Nervous exhaustion set in.

She curled up on her side, and clutched her blanket underneath her chin. She held her tiny brown teddy bear tightly in her arms, and let out another huge yawn. She would be sound asleep soon.

She imagined the jets flying in tandem alongside each side of Santa's sleigh as the pilots waved to the jolly old elf, and Santa waving back to them, as they flew above the snow covered landscape below, lit by the blue, silvery moonlight.


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