We Cubans always saw Fidel on the front line when confronting the threat of military attacks against the Homeland, on several occasions, regardless of the risks to his own life.
Such was the case during the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón in April 1961 and the 1962 October Crisis, when the country faced the potential threat of a massive attack by the United States armed forces, including the likely use of nuclear weapons.
But he also acted in this way in the face of every hurricane that struck or threatened the country from 1959 to 2006, the year in which, due to a sudden illness, he was forced to cease his responsibilities as President of the Councils of State and Ministers.
It is impossible to recall the dramatic experiences in the eastern region of Cuba during the slow and erratic passage of Hurricane Flora, October 4 - 8, 1963, without mentioning the presence of the leader of the Revolution at the very scene of the tragedy (1,157 people died), personally overseeing the search and rescue operations as the population was threatened by floods of an unprecedented magnitude.
During one of those complex and risky efforts, Fidel almost suffered a fatal accident, as the amphibious vehicle in which he was traveling was on the verge of being swept away by a violent torrent of water. It was only the expertise of a campesino who managed to pull them free with ropes attached to a Zil truck, which prevented another tragedy.
Cleo, Alma, Inez, Kate, Lily in 1996, Georges, Michelle, Charley, Ivan, were tropical cyclonic events that affected Cuba and saw Fidel issuing instructions to protect the people and preserve the resources of the economy, touring affected areas even during the onslaught of severe weather, providing encouragement to the victims, and assuring them that the Revolution would never abandon them. This is one of the reasons why he was so loved by his people.
Having worked closely with our leader during several of these natural disasters, Dr. José Rubiera told Granma that he had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Fidel whenever a threat of this kind occurred.
“Whether in his visits to the Meteorology Institute’s Forecast Center, or the Mesa Redonda in the television studios, Fidel was keenly interested in the details of the force of the hurricane, the most likely path it would take, the intensity it could reach, the areas most vulnerable to its impacts.
“He asked many questions and among them, he particularly inquired about those aspects that interested the population, he served as an excellent interlocutor with the people.”
Rubiera noted that there are many anecdotes about his dialogues with Fidel, a man he considers a true giant of ideas, the most prominent Cuban and Latin American of the twentieth century, and one of the most illustrious and outstanding statesmen worldwide.
“He had the gift of translating the most difficult term into an accessible language, and that was the case when faced with the threat of the intense Hurricane Ivan in September 2005. We were on the Mesa Redonda talking about the trochoidal motion of the eye of such a dangerous meteorological phenomenon, and he asked us to explain the meaning of this concept more simply.
“Once we thought everything was clear, he said jokingly that it was corcoveo (crooked) and that’s how people began to refer to it.
“On another occasion he asked me an unexpected question about the exact distance of a hurricane from Kingston, Jamaica, and by the time I had made an approximate estimate by placing my fingers on the map, and gave him the answer, he had already mentally calculated it correctly.”
Rubiera received the painful news of the death of the Comandante en Jefe far from the country. The initial disbelief became a bitter reality with the passing of the hours, to which he says he will necessarily have to resign himself. For the renowned meteorologist Fidel is no longer physically present, but a man of his stature is immortal and his ideas of building a better world will endure forever.