I'm a child of the Cold War. In my lifetime nuclear annihilation was an everyday possibility. I remember the air raid sirens drills, and being rushed into the basement by my folks till the 'All Clear'.
I remember well an unscheduled drill.
It may have been in spring of 1957 or '58. I remember it was on one of the first warm days of spring.
In those days the ground even as far south from the Arctic Circle as New York was frozen from January to about April. This was before planetary climate change became obvious.
Anyway I took this opportunity to play in the backyard. The ground was now soft enough to use my toy crane, and plow-truck. There I was with our dog "Brownie" playing, and digging.
Have you noticed how if left to their own boys will dig.
I suspect it may be a species memory from our time of being prey to large animals. "Hide"...cover your tracks, and most of all keep quiet!. So species boy digs. Quietly digs
Safe from the leopards. A large Cat that had a particular fondness for human meat. They've deduced this from examining their ice-age stool. We were their fast food.
So there I was peacefully digging to hide from Leopards 20,000 years gone. Safe from leopards yes, but Bears no.
The Tupolev Tu-95, NATO code name "BEAR".
ICBM's were still not widely available to either side in this Cold War. So both sides in that death dance relied on heavy bombers to deliver their A-Bombs. Our former ally, and now deadly Enemy Soviet Russia used the Tu-95...the BEAR.
America used the then brand new B-52.
On that day it seemed to my Mother that the Bears had finally come hunting. Hunting for her, and her cub...me.
What happened I remember as a terrifying blur...but I nevertheless still well remember it.
The unscheduled Air Raid Alert sirens shrieked across peaceful Brooklyn. I was later told that drivers stopped their cars in the middle of the street others ran the stop lights trying to get home. I remember adult voices yelling in tones I'd never heard before...fear.
I remember our neighbor Mrs. Holder screaming...yes screaming for Mr. Holder who was in working on their car in the garage to come into the house! Again adults with fear in their voice. I had never imagined never heard never dreamed such was possible.
Now if people were calm thoughtful thinking rationally they'd have checked about before going nuts. The radio or TV maybe the police. However the era was thick with fear. We'd normalized terror into something we could live with.
We took it for granted.
Took for granted that one fine day. ...say a quiet Saturday morning...it would happen.
We all of us, and our kids, and dogs would be turned shadows of carbon.
We'd all be burnt seared into walls all over the city. The adults of that era had made a treaty with madness. "We won't think about it, and you won't bother us with it till...till it happens."
Well on that day it seemed to have at last happened.
I'm playing with the toy truck, and crane I'd got for Christmas. At last able to use it in real dirt. My mother was busy doing Mommy things in the house. There's a kind of music we make as we go about our routines. She was making comforting Mommie music in the house. It drifted out to the yard where I played.
All was safe. All was well.
The storm door window shatters as my mother kicks it open flying down the steps of the porch which my carpenter uncle Lee had built last summer.
I looked up confused, and with the cold of fright entering my body. I'd heard Mrs. Holder scream for her husband I heard other adult voices also with that new thing in them...fear.
My Mommie had an expression I'd never seen before. An expression of a mother whose only point only reason for living was to protect her baby. My sister, and bother were at my aunt's house. We were alone. Alone at the end of the world.
I'm scooped up held tightly so tightly. I remember trying to say "I can't breath". We're up the steps through the house down the cellar into the little store room at the back the door is slammed I'm stuffed into the corner my mother's body heavy, and warm atop me.
She's protecting me with her own body.
Protecting me from the gale of fire about to descend on the City. I remember I was crying. My mother was speaking to me I don't know what she was saying. I think she may have been praying.
After a time the 'All Clear' sounded.
The aftermath of this is very unclear to me. Again adults taking that strange talk they always do. Children don't understand all the words, but are expert at picking up tones.
Anger was a clear tone. Especially from the Daddies. The Mommies spoke in low mommie tones, but just as upset. Like all children I took it in my stride. Children do. They can take wars concentration camps poverty murder with amazing resilience.
I even forgot about. For many years it slept at the bottom of my memory. 9/11 brought it back.
...But that's another story.
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