Protesters sitting in Whitehall during a demonstration over the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
This Wednesday the Honorable Scott J. Silverman and a panel of distinguished experts team with HistoryMiami to discuss the Cuban Missle Crisis at Kork, that downtown wine bar whose underground bomb shelter now serves as a wine cellar. Niteside asked the judge about the time it was Seven Minutes to Midnight.
What's the big idea behind Seven Minutes to Midnight? This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. While the crisis had the world's attention, South Floridians, with Cuba just 90 miles away, were especially focused on the events.
Why did you decide to use that as the title for the talk? Seven Minutes to Midnight reflects the amount of time left on the so-called Doomsday Clock during the Cold War. The atomic scientists (who set and re-set the clock) were of the opinion that we were just seven proverbial minutes away from global nuclear war.
Did they reset The Doomsday Clock as a result of the Crisis? The Cuban Missile Crisis began and was resolved in two weeks. From what I can ascertain, the clock neither moved forward nor backward. International events moved faster than those who would re-set the clock.
The scientists did though subsequently add some time once the Crisis had ended, right? About a year after the missile crisis, five minutes were added to the clock so that it would start at twelve minutes to midnight. This was apparently done because the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty.
What role did Miami play in the Crisis anyway? If you'll pardon the metaphor, Miami had a front row seat to a one-act Cold War play called Armageddon, and no one knew if the curtain was going to rise. With the onset of the crisis, soldiers and military materials flooded into South Florida.
Public reactions to the crisis were not homogeneous. According to my former colleague, Judge Seymour Gelber, in his book, On Behalf of Children, some in Dade County took the intrigue in stride as the usual parrying with Russia during the Cold War. Some acted as if a hurricane was approaching from offshore and stocked up on food and candles. Still others viewed the crisis with alarm.
How else did Miami factor into the Missile Crisis equation? The crisis claimed one local political "casualty". Though there was not a mass exodus from Miami, Juvenile Court Judge William Culbreath and his family left without notice and sought refuge out of the state. When the crisis was averted, Culbreath had to explain his departure to the media. That departure became an issue in the next election and he lost.
Holding this symposium in a Downtown underground bunker only makes perfect sense, no? This is probably the only time when so many experts in American and Cuban affairs have gathered all at once in a fall out shelter. At the time of the crisis people had no idea if they would wake up in their own beds or on the floor of a bunker, such as the one in Kork.
Does is help that said site also happens to be a wine bar? I am not a drinker, however, I can readily see how some wine can be calming. The topic of conversation can be nerve-racking. After all, the Cuban Missile Crisis had a lot of people losing sleep.
Seven Minutes to Midnight: An Inside Perspective to the Cuban Missile Crisis takes place Wednesday July 11, 6:30pm at Kork 2 South Miami Avenue Downtown Miami. For more information log on here.