HERIBERTO SEDENO RECALLS THE OCTOBER MISSILE CRISIS Heriberto Sedeno was 16 years old when he left Havana, Cuba on October 2nd. 1962. During the months preceding his departure there were rumors spreading all over Cuba that “something was going on”. It was evident that tighter security was placed on the civilian population. Military and paramilitary personnel known as “milicianos’ made their presence felt in the streets of every town in Cuba. The most shocking site was that of “eastern European” looking young tourists visiting the main sites around Havana such as Parque Central and Old Havana taking pictures wearing dull summer clothing. They would not buy anything on the few shops still open nor mingle with the people. They made their rounds in groups of 5 to 10 with one of them acting as guide.Months later Mr. Sedeno found out that these tourists were Russian soldiers sent to Cuba to supervise the construction and later staff the ICBM missile bases being placed strategically in the countryside. Mr. Sedeno recalls reading in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, that the Soviet Union had sent to Cuba a contingent of agricultural and factory technicians to help the Cuban people. The government had successfully used the propaganda at their means to hide the true intentions of these visitors. On October 22nd, , 1962, almost 3 weeks after Mr. Heriberto Sedeno’s arrival to Camp Matecumbe he felt ill and checked into the Camp’s infirmary with a high fever and a very serious skin rash. His neck glands were swollen and achy. The nurse checked him and advised him to sleep that night in one of the cots available until the next day he would be checked by the doctor. That night, when President John F. Kennedy was addressing the American people and the world informing them that the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba ready to be launched to U.S.targets. Mr. Sedeno was in a delirium with high fever and seriously dehydrated. Indeed in a global and personal scope those 13 days in October 1962 were dangerous.The convalescent days of Mr. Sedeno’s illness and the development of the Missile Crisis was marked by a lot of fear. Camp Matecumbe was at the southwest edge of Miami very close to the Everglades National Park and Homestead Air Force Base. Further down, the Florida Keys are connected to the mainland by a two way road. During the day and night the children in the Camp were able to hear the constant military air traffic and the rumbling of trucks all heading south. The talk amongst the children and the Camp’s personnel was very somber. They all thought that Cuba was on the verge of a U.S. invasion with atomic weapons and that the lives of their family members still in Cuba were in grave danger.Of course, foremost in their minds was that the Russians would attack the Miami area first. For 13 days extreme tension and fear enveloped the world. It was as if life had stood still during those days. Mr. Sedeno remembers living the stillness of the moment lying on his cot at Camp Matecumbe’s infirmary. The world survived the worst crisis it had ever experienced, and in a personal Mr. Sedeno lived through a very serious infection.
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