Remember all those drills at school? I can recall them as well. Sometimes the drills were scheduled, and our teachers would have us line up at the door in anticipation of the alarm sounding. We’d march outside in a quiet and orderly fashion, knowing there would be hell to pay if we talked or fooled around.
Other times, we would be sitting at our desks or dressed in our ugly blue gym suits– in the middle of a lesson or concluding our morning exercises–when we would hear the alarm and proceed to the exit, waiting for our teacher to indicate it was time to leave the building.
After the Columbine shootings, lock-down drills were added. Your teacher would secure the door, and you would all head to a corner of the room where you could not be easily spotted by a gun-wielding intruder. I know this is necessary, but as a parent, it always frightened me knowing this was now the new normal.
When we moved to Chapel Hill, a third drill was added to the mix: tornado drills. That really caught me by surprise. I guess I didn’t do my homework before we moved to North Carolina. Until the day you came home and told me you had a tornado drill that day, I thought tornados were something that only routinely happened in the middle—Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Oops!
Are you all aware of the air raid drills which were prevalent when I was a child? I know they happened over a period of time beginning in the fifties, but what I am able to recall happened when I was in second grade in 1962.
In the early fall of that school year, Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba. Our country was poised for the Russians to launch an attack, which heightened the fears which had existed for years because of the close proximity of Cuba to our country. I recall being directed to the hall outside our classroom, where we were instructed to sit on the floor against a wall with our heads down and our hands behind our necks. In some schools, students were instructed to hide under their desks. The thought was that in the event of a nuclear attack, we should be away from the windows, sheltered from flying objects and broken glass. Looking back now, the idea that we would be protected in that way is ridiculous.
What I never knew until now was that a forty-six page pamphlet, “Fallout Protection: What to Know and Do about Nuclear Attacks”, was produced by the Department of Defense, explaining how to survive a nuclear attack. It included instructions on how build a shelter or how to outfit your basement with food and supplies. It was similar to the movie, “Blast from the Past.” I am positive that Grandpa read this pamphlet, because I recall Grandma talking about having a “fallout dinner” one night after President Kennedy negotiated the removal of the missiles from Cuba with the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. She got out a can opener and made supper that night. She joked about it years later, but I know, at the time, no one was laughing and was quite fearful that we were all in grave danger.
Now it seems there is no place to hide: schools, churches, movie theaters, and malls have us all thinking twice about our safety when something terrible happens. What would Grandpa say? My opinion is that we cannot crawl into a hole and hide or we really are not living. Take sensible precautions, but in the end, enjoy life.