MILTON — National History Day is an annual contest where students create websites, performances, exhibits, papers and documentaries related to historical events and people. In June, three Santa Rosa County students attended; two took top honors.
Milton High School graduate Mallory Brammel competed in the national competition. Gulf Breeze Middle School eighth-grade student Grace Mims won outstanding entry, fourth place in the junior individual exhibit category. Gulf Breeze Middle School graduate Max Mateer won first place in the junior individual performance category for his entry.
The Santa Rosa School District honored the students during the Sept. 7 school board meeting. Brammel was unable to attend.
Mims’ entry was an exhibit titled “Rachel Carson: Standing for the Environment.”
Rachel Carson was a writer and biologist whose 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” started the modern environmental movement, according to Mims.
“It was a wakeup call to America and the world,” she said.
Carson died in 1964 from breast cancer but her work would lead to the banning of DDT in 1972, according to Mims.
Mateer’s entry was a performance titled “Two Goats on a Bridge and a Torpedo Underneath,” telling the story of submarine officer Vasili Arkhipov, credited with preventing a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
On Oct. 27, 1962, the captain of the nuclear-armed submarine B-59 wanted to fire on a group of U.S. Naval ships. Arkhipov’s was the only dissenting vote of three required to launch a nuclear missile.
Without Arkhipov’s decision, Mateer said he wouldn’t be around to tell the story.
“It’s a story of cascading retaliation. It’s mutually assured destruction,” he said.
Part of Mateer’s research into the Cuban Missile Crisis was a phone call with the son of former Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei Khrushchev.
He discovered Sergei gives lectures at Brown University in Rhode Island, which led to getting in touch by phone.
It wasn’t without difficulty, according to Mateer.
“Tuesday morning, my phone buzzed in science class. It was Sergei Khrushchev calling me in the middle of science class.”
Mateer was impressed with Sergei’s impartial views.
“When you stop and understand a point of view you gain a whole new view on the world,” he said.
This was Mateer’s third trip to the national competition, but the first time winning.
“It was surreal to win first.”
Mateer had inspiration close to home. His sister, Macy Mateer, won second place in 2013 in individual performance.
Mims and Mateer went to the National History Day competition under the tutelage of 14-year Gulf Breeze Middle School teacher Grace Freeman, a full-time history teacher.