I tried writing this a few months ago, only for it to be somehow lost in cyberspace. After the time spent writing it only to have it disappear, I gave up and really haven't posted anything on here in a while. Today, though, I was looking through old Google Reader stuff and found the unformatted text hidden away in an old RSS feed. Thank You Google! It is now as timely, because of the news today that Qadhafi was killed.
It was my sixth birthday when we moved to Spain and my ninth when we moved back to the United States. From July 1985, until July 1988, I lived on a United States Naval Station in Rota, Spain. My stepfather was in the Navy and had been stationed there. When we moved there our family consisted of my mother, my stepfather, my younger sister and me. During that time, I met the love of my life, was rescued from a burglar by a lion, made friends with a monkey and gained another sister. Between the extraordinary adventures were events occurring in the world that I wasn’t quite old enough to understand at the time. One of these was the sniper on the top of my elementary school.
Rota is in the southern region of Andalusia, adjacent to Gibralter. In April of 1986 I was 6 years old and in the first grade. I attended the small elementary school that was the annex to the main school, called David Glasgow Farragut, after the Naval Admiral. At that time there were rumblings in the news about a guy called Qadhafi. All I could get anyone to tell me about him at the time was that he was a crazy guy who ruled a country called Libya.
We were in the car going to pick my stepfather up from work when I first spotted the sniper on top of the roof of my school. As a six year old, guns frightened me (they still do, but that’s completely beside the point). Terrified, I asked my mom why there was a man with a gun on the top of my school. She told me the soldier was there to protect us kids from Qadhafi. This didn’t help me sleep much that night. The thought of going to school the next morning made me queasy and my stomach burn.
I walked to school very slowly. When I finally arrived there were huddled groups on the playground instead of the usual playing. It seemed everyone wanted to talk about the man on our roof. During class our teacher explained the situation in Libya a little better than my mother did, but it was still a fuzzy concept to me.
I thought Qadhafi himself would be coming over to hurt us. His picture flashed on the news frequently. We only had 2 channels at the time, AFRTS and a community bulletin channel whose repetitive song I can still hear in my mind 25 years later. The news on the base was on a need to know basis for the most part. It wasn’t until around ‘88 when the base finally got CNN and news from the outside world was more readily available. This lack of news made it confusing not just for us, but for the adults around us as well. Wild theories were shot around frequently, and the community bulletin with the mind numbing music often admonished us not to spread gossip and rumors.
I can’t remember how long the soldiers were there. They switched off in shifts and sometimes there were two on duty. They were there long enough where we finally became brave enough to wave at our rooftop defenders. Occasionally, we were rewarded with a return wave or a nod of acknowledgement. One day, we went back to school and they were gone, and life for the most part went back to the semblance of normal we lived. Of course today we know that the United States bombed Libya on April 15, 1986 and that one of the planes actually landed at Rota on its return mission. We on the base didn’t know the details at the time.
Qadhafi to this day is causing trouble, his country beginning to demand his removal. As I see Libya in the news again, I thought about this episode in my life and realize that the lack of information in this situation led me to always seek answers. Some of those answers led my life in positive ways, others not so much. I still have odd dreams sometimes, confusing ones about a war with Libya going on and not knowing what’s going on. Strange how they had faded for a long time, but with the increasing mentions of Libya in the news, the old, and familiar tightening of the stomach returns. I’m sure that’s how some of our leaders feel about Libya, as well.