MOUNT VERNON — As the protests by the citizens of Libya continue with bloody reprisals by Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, Mary Jacklin, mother of Mount Vernon resident Bruce Jacklin, has a very good idea of what the Libyans are going through.
She and her family — five children and military husband, Walter — were in Tripoli during the violence of 1967 when King Idris was in power.
“It was quite terrifying,” Jacklin said. “We had not one little inkling that this was going to happen. It just happened. I had gotten the kids ready for school and they went to get on the bus. When I went back inside the house, I heard on the radio the announcer saying ‘Americans, stay in your villa.’”
Jacklin was scheduled to work at the military base that day. As she was preparing to leave, her 14-year-old son, Steve, returned to the house. He had ripped his pants before the school bus came and returned home to change. That’s when everything broke loose.
Jacklin said getting herself and Steve to the base was not easy.
“We didn’t even have time to pack anything. When we went out to get in the car, Arabs were coming up the pathway that led into our villa. They had burning torches,” she said.
Crowds of people also blocked many streets and impeded traffic in other ways.
“We had a hard time getting on the base,” said Jacklin. “The people had put nails in the Pepsi caps and they were all over the road. So, when we went onto the base, I had four flat tires. I’d say they knew what they were doing there.”
Things didn’t get much better when Jacklin reached the base. The school had been closed and the children were all in different safe places on the post. Jacklin said it was somewhat of a problem finding all her children. To make matters worse, something happened to the water supply.
“Somehow or other,” Jacklin said, “the Arabs had slipped on the base in the back and cut the water lines. So we didn’t have water on the base. ... The whole thing was terrifying. We didn’t know what we were going to be doing until we got out of there. I think I turned myself on automatic pilot. ... The confusion of all the people”
The Jacklin family and other military dependents were evacuated by troop carrier aircraft to Moran, Spain.
“There were people sick and crying and scared,” said Bruce recalled in an earlier interview with the News. “There were crying babies and people airsick because of the turbulence. And then the irony of it came when they tried to give us C-rations they had on board: It was pineapple and tuna fish. My mother wouldn’t let us eat it. She just had us munch on the crackers that were in [the C-rations.]”
“One of my dear friends was nine months pregnant at the time. We were afraid she would deliver on the airplane. But she didn’t, she made it home,” she said.
Things were less tense in Spain, Jacklin said, except for the time Steve slipped off the base and went to a bullfight. “I couldn’t find him [for about four hours]. I just didn’t know where he went.”
After about a week in Spain, the family returned to the United States on a commercial PanAm flight. The Jacklins stayed with Mary’s parents in Toledo, but Walter remained in Libya.
“There were things he had to do there with the military,” she said. “It was a good six months before he could join us. That was very nerve wracking.”
Jacklin said she is sorry to see all the turmoil going on in Libya.
“It’s a beautiful country,” she said. “I really enjoyed the year and some months that we were there.”