Sunday afternoon, Abilene Christian University students joined veterans and community members at a former nuclear missile silo in Lawn to remember the past and look ahead to our future.
"It's the closest time our country has ever come to nuclear annihilation," said Dr. Neal Coates, the chair of the Political Science Dept. at Abilene Christian University.
For thirteen days, starting on October 16th, 1962, the entire country was on edge as the Cuban Missile Crisis came to a head.
Joseph Johnson was a 27-year-old ballistic missile analyst technician stationed at one of a dozen nuclear missile silos that ring the Big Country and recounted what he called one of the most terrifying days in his memory.
"Had we not done what we did, gone through that crisis period, Cuba would have had missiles they could have sent to the United States," Johnson explained.
Sunday, Johnson gathered alongside other veterans at the silo in Lawn, to spread that message from one generation, to the next.
For ACU political science students, it's a way to learn from the past to forge a better future.
"It adds a bit of realism to the situation and makes you visualize what would have happened if a nuclear warhead really did hit," said student Elizabeth Kopeke.
"It's to better understand the cost in dollars and in blood that this country spent in order to win the Cold War," said Coates. "There was too much at stake."
An anniversary to commemorate the crisis that came so close to home -- one push of a button in our backyard could have caused our worst nightmare.
"We'd have had a nuclear holocaust all over the world, because if we launched our missiles, they would have launched theirs," Johnson said.
Though no missiles were ever launched from the Big Country, the overall mission -- to act as a deterrent and not a first-line defense -- was accomplished.