However, given what you thought happened does really put it into perspective and I likely would have felt the same. I never had to live with the fear of nuclear war, so it's hard to imagine the kind of stress and fear that could cause.
Indeed. It's a long story but a strange combination of events, a bizarre phone message, and hearing the wrong excerpt of a radio broadcast on 9/11 initially led me to believe that it was likely that thermonuclear devices had been detonated over major U.S. cities. For a minute or more, I was trying to figure out who might be lobbing ICBMs at us, where the nearest major cities were to me, likely direction of prevailing winds and fallout clouds, etc. After turning on the TV and finally hearing it was about a few plane crashes and thousands were dead instead of tens of millions that I was imagining... yeah, I breathed a sigh of relief too. Believe me, you never was to go through a period where you seriously believe that a nuclear war has begun.
The problem with nuclear war breaking out and you finding out about it is that you're at the wrong location then.
You really want to be near a primary target, like a strategically significant military base or a government building. Otherwise, you might even survive the first strike and slowly die of hunger, thirst and radiation.