We are in Syracuse with my dad’s brother and his family when it happens. It takes hours for the base security to learn of the breach and arrest them. They are initially charged with sabotage, conspiracy and destruction of government property — and face 25 years in jail. We are, as I said, 9, 8 and 2.
They are eventually tried in a federal court in Syracuse. Their trial is a strange mix of freedom and scrutiny for my brother, sister and me. Our mom and dad are caught up in the trial, and we are left to play and grapple largely unsupervised. But we are also in the media eye. People magazine calls us “troupers to the extreme” when it covered mom’s sentencing in July 1984.
Our dad tells the reporter, “They don’t cry. They’ve been raised in a resistance community, and they’ve seen their mother and father repeatedly brought to jail for nonviolent civil disobedience.”
We did cry. Our mom serves 26 months in Alderson Federal prison in West Virginia. We fall into a rhythm of traveling there once a month for a long weekend. The powers that be conspire to make those weekends fall on every school field trip or fun excursion planned by our teachers. Our dad writes us long “please excuse my children from school” letters reminding our teachers every month that our mom is in jail for her anti-nuclear action. He sees it as an opportunity for education. We bypass this impulse and figure out a way to relate exclusively with the school secretary for early dismissals on…