The recent 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Iran's foray into the nuclear swamp (Power? Bombs? Both?) reminded me of a time in my childhood when I was pretty petrified by the thought of Nuclear War.
I was in fourth grade at the height of the madness. We had Duck and Cover drills in school. We practiced getting home on foot as quickly as possible; I remember running as fast as I could the two or so miles home. People were building bomb shelters in their basements. I asked my Pop where our bomb shelter was; he told me it would be the crawl space under my Gramma's room. This was a three-foot high underground spot accessible from our basement. This worried me because how would we sit up? Where would we go to the bathroom? How could we possibly survive???
Mom told me Pop was just joking, but I still worried. They didn't seem to be making plans for the nuclear holocaust!
Anyway, one of things that kept me nervous was the air raid siren down the street from my house. It was on a tall tower by the railroad tracks and was tested every so often, always with plenty of notice. It was so loud you couldn't speak. It was one of 60 sirens in Montgomery County, Maryland and would alert us to the imminent destruction of the world by the Evil Godless Communists of Russia.
One time, very very early on a weekday morning, the siren went off! It woke us all up immediately. I knew that This Was IT. The bomb was going to drop, and we were going to have to hide in the basement and hope we'd survive the initial blast and resulting radioactive fallout.
I jumped out of the bed and started running around the house, not knowing what to do, frightened out of my 10-year old mind. My younger sister was huddled up under the covers in bed. I don't quite remember what my older brother was doing, but I do remember my mother, in her robe, filling pots and pans with water. I ran back upstairs and there was my Pop, sitting on the side of his bed putting on his socks and shoes, calmly dressing for Armageddon.
But something was odd. The radio was working just fine, no CONELRAD broadcast, just the usual morning radio show that we always had on.
What? Weird! Finally, I guess the radio station got word of the malfunction and announced that we could all relax -- for the moment!! -- it was just a system malfunction; all was well.
The siren never malfunctioned again, but it was always there just down the block, a reminder that bad people were out to get us. The system was finally dismantled in the 90s and the siren disappeared. The tower lives on, as you can see, a reminder of the time when total destruction was just around the corner.
Maybe it still is. DUN...DUN...DUN...