A Widow’s Tale: Real Lives and the Tragedy of Terrorism

Strategic Air Command

The Emblem of the Strategic Air Command

As the inclusion of post-atomic technology became more prevalent in the Air Force, June’s husband found himself more and more involved with the rapid deployment of nuclear ordnance to the B-52 Stratofortress – the backbone of the Strategic Air Command that had become very familiar to June’s family. Receiving orders to Madrid, Spain in the late spring of 1960, Jim Clark assumed duties at Torrejón Air Force Base that soon placed him at the very center of the Cuban Missile Crisis. For a period of 13 days in October of 1962, Jim Clark was in hourly contact with the Pentagon as the B-52 squadrons based at Torrejón were in a constant 24-hour-per-day circle toward Russia and back. An engineer, Jim Clark was also heavily involved in the construction of Navy and Air Force bases throughout the Mediterranean – at times involving weeks away from the family home in Madrid. During these years, June was at the pinnacle of her motherly responsibilities, caring for a growing family that would consist of 8 children upon their return to the United States (by this time her oldest child had enlisted in the Coast Guard). With her husband frequently away, June would oftentimes load the entire family into a white station wagon on the weekend and drive to nearby sites of interest, such as the famous medieval walled city of Toledo or the Alcázar of Segovia. Taking advantage of accrued vacation leave, her husband took the family on long summer trips to various regions of Spain, as well as Southern France. One significant tragedy pierced June’s heart during these years of her life – when her second daughter contracted spinal meningitis, leading to an agonizingly slow degeneration in health that would eventually end in early death. Accustomed to the responsibilities and hardships of military life, June lifted all of this on her shoulders and trudged on through time without a complaint. However, despairing for her daughter’s deteriorating health, she also looked forward to a much-needed return to her native culture.

The Clark family homecoming was to an America that had changed dramatically since their departure in 1960. Elvis Presley, Beatlemania, and the Vietnam War had all become staples in the vocabulary of average Americans, most of whom could never identify with the experiences through which June and her children had lived since 1945. Jim Clark took on the role of vice commander at Carswell Air Force Base in Ft. Worth, Texas for a period of one year before ending his military career – in deference to the deteriorating health of his second daughter, who required very specialized medical attention by this time. He would dabble in insurance, real estate, and the management of apartments for the next decade of his life, while June busied herself with the children – who one by one began to graduate from high school. Since the outbreak of World War II in 1941, she had repeatedly postponed a personal dream to earn a college education in the field of art – but in the mid-1970s she finally made the “big jump” and entered junior college with the full intent of slowly earning a bachelor’s degree in art education. Meanwhile, Jim Clark’s military career followed him into retirement – in the form of an offer from the Boeing Corporation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to complete a project at the Cakmakli Munitions Depot in Turkey. According to plans, this employment was to last about 2 years, after which June and her husband would return to Michigan and finally retire in the state from which fate had rudely pulled them over 20 years previous.

However, the most dramatic change in June Clark’s life since the bombing of Pearl Harbor lay in wait just over the horizon.  She had plunged headlong into her studies, and her husband had eliminated about half of the 2 years in Turkey, when their son Robert died tragically in the crash of a light airplane on November 17, 1979. The funeral, attended by hundreds of young family friends and presided over by several Catholic priests, called Jim Clark back to Texas from his duties in Turkey. Due to the highly classified nature of his work with NATO, his exact responsibilities are still unknown today – but his military experience with nuclear ordnance, and the fact he was working at a munitions depot, would seem to indicate that he very likely was involved in the removal of nuclear weaponry from Turkey, as dictated by the agreement that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis. Before returning to Turkey, he was also able to celebrate Thanksgiving and purchase tickets for his whole family to attend the Nutcracker Suite, which had long been a sentimental favorite since the family’s days spent overseas. As his wife and children tearfully waved goodbye, none of them – not even a award-winning writer of horror – could have possibly imagined the nightmare that was about to unfold.

(continued on page 3)

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

About jrcclark

On October 2, 2001, scarcely one month after the horrors of 911, Representative Jim Turner of Texas introduced H. R. 2982 to the House of Representatives, calling for “the establishment of a memorial to victims who died as a result of terrorist acts against the United States or its people, at home or abroad.” The resolution was amended by the Committee on Resources in June of 2002 and eventually approved on September 25, 2002 on a “motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill.” It was sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but it has languished there ever since – in effect dead and going nowhere. In 2008, this Senate Committee considered making Dark Elegy, the work of a New York sculptor who lost a son in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as the monument called for in H. R. 2982. However, the committee turned down the touching and thought-provoking sculptures of Suse Ellen Lowenstein – on the grounds that “…as compelling and impressive a proposal as has been made for the memorial in question, that we believe that, for the time being, that it relates to a very specific incident and should be treated as such rather than as a generic monument to victims of terrorism for all time.” Today the resolution seems forgotten, and it is the purpose of this website to promote a petition to the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requesting that H. R. 2982 be reconsidered and revisited.
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2 Responses to A Widow’s Tale: Real Lives and the Tragedy of Terrorism

  1. Pingback: They Came in Peace: The Beirut Memorial | Honor the Victims of Terrorism

  2. Pingback: Remembering 11-M: The Madrid Atocha Train Station Memorial | Honor the Victims of Terrorism

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