Tensions were high on September 26th, 1983, when lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Air Defence Forces saw 6 blips come across the screen of the early missile detection system developed to alert in the event of a US first strike. Petrov looked at the blips, concluded "this doesn't make any sense," and flagged it as a false alarm- which is was. The incident exposed a serious problem with the Soviet early detection system. Had he reported the alerts to his supervisors, it would have been the onset of an all out nuclear war, likely meaning the end of civilization as we know it.
My family here at Sister Myrtle's Home for Wayward Women (what we affectionally call my house) celebrates this day every year by living the day as if it's your last. Take the day off work. Have an extra pastry. Drink some whiskey. It doesn't matter, the world could have ended!
This marks the beginning of a month of reflection (ending with the twin feasts of of William Bassett and Vasili Arkhipov on October 27th and 28th respectively) on humanity, in which we choose to abstain from a luxury of modern civilization as a way of honoring what could have been but wasn't thanks to the split-second decisions of military personnel low on the totem pole.
In the wise words of my roomie Josh, "I'm going to acknowledge the thin veneer of what passes for civilization by abstaining from bourbon. When nuclear armageddon comes ain't nobody gonna have time to distill spirits: we'll be too busy murdering each other over the last can of dog food. As the leaves fall let us give thanks that the warheads didn't."