Dearest Rachel –
So this morning, as I finally set out to walk across town to the ‘office’ at my folks’ place, I was mildly startled by the slowly rising wail of klaxons in the air, eventually surrounding me on all sides until I was very nearly at the (all but deserted) downtown area. It’s one thing to hear them when the weather is threatening, but out of a clear blue sky? What is going on?
Granted, it didn’t take long before I realized that it was merely the first Tuesday of the month, and at ten o’clock, they always test the sirens at this time. It wouldn’t do for them to be non-functional should an actual emergency arise, after all.
Now, you’d talked about a couple of times during your childhood when tornadoes were an issue as they approached your hometown, and I think there was one time when there had been several touchdowns surrounding Bloomington-Normal after I graduated, and you and your dorm-mates were huddled in the TV lounge of your dorm for several hours during the emergency (For all intents and purposes, I think those were more touchdowns than we usually would have on campus on any given Saturday back in those days). I don’t know if it ever crossed your mind – at least, not to the same extent it did mine back in those days – that those alarms might represent a threat of something other than Mother Nature.
No, not Siren Head. I mean something along the lines of an attack by a foreign power.
You and I grew up during the Cold War, something Daniel (and anyone his age) couldn’t fathom anymore. Sure, Russia is still an adversary of sorts, but they don’t seem to be in any position (or even desire) to wipe us off the face of the earth like they were – or at least seemed to be – back in our day. Even China – who seems much more antagonistic toward us these days – is too hungry for the almighty dollar to want us actually gone, merely thoroughly humbled. And at the rate things are going, they’ll probably get their wish before we can figure out how to turn things around.
But enough of current politics, and back to the politics of when we were growing up. Back in high school, we read the likes of Alas, Babylon in literature class, and I forget which science class went over it, but there was some textbook that described the effects of a nuclear explosion and fallout from the epicenter out. Guess where said epicenter was? Yup, O’Hare airport; not quite right smack in the middle of the country, but close enough and strategic enough (not to mention populous enough) to inflict massive damage on the country were it ever tried.
As you can see, we were exposed to the threat of the logical conclusion of the Cold War in a way that even most of the nation (apart from possibly Omaha, being the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command) wasn’t. So it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that it used to be a bit of gallows humor at school that, should the Soviets ever decide to attack, they should just do so on the morning of the first Tuesday of the month. I honestly don’t know if it’s a nationwide thing, but it certainly seemed to be a constant throughout the entirety of the Chicagoland area.
Can’t you just picture it? The missiles are on their way, but, it being the first Tuesday morning of the month, everybody reacts with a nonchalant “Meh, it’s just that time, no big deal.” And we wouldn’t have a clue that something serious was going down until that flash of light and searing heat took us all down.
You’ll recall that, among the things I had planned to do in creating a YouTube channel, I had hoped to read the novel Generation X to Daniel, and see what his reaction was would be to the fact that I always wanted to be Andy in the novel. And it’s fascinating to note that one of the chapters devotes itself to a fantasy of where each of them wanted to be at the end of the world – which, again, you know we all thought was imminent when we were that age.
And yet here we are, untouched directly by nuclear fallout, or even war. Sure, we know some people seem to want us dead – this upcoming weekend includes a day of remembrance of that fact – but complete atomic annihilation seems so far off.
And it’s ironic, considering how much more aware of death I am these days. The Grief Share seminar addresses the fact that as the surviving spouse, I might have thoughts of suicide. I can’t say that I do, as such, but it did address an attitude of “if you wanted to take me, Lord, I wouldn’t mind all that much,” and I can’t say that I would argue with that.
So if the sirens were to blare at an inopportune time (You know, at some other time than the first Tuesday of the month, when we would be too likely to expect them), I don’t think I’d hide in the basement. For one thing, there are windows there, so it’s not that much safer than any other room. For another, I’d just as soon go when it’s time; I’d probably make myself comfortable in the bedroom, facing the one wall without windows, and wait things out there.
As it stands, though, I doubt any of that’s going to be necessary to consider anytime soon. You’ll have to wait a while before I join you.
Until then, darling, you take care. Love you; I’ll talk to you later.