Tuesday, March 22

Fire alarms

They were testing the fire alarms the other day at work. A vaguely Middle-Eastern voice on the PA announced that we should ignore any and all alarms for the afternoon. Osama bin Laden on the fire brigade? I hope not.

The problem with fire drills is the more you have them the less effective they are. Whenever the fire alarm goes off on my floor no one leaps up and heads for the door. We all wait for the “ignore any and all alarms” announcement.

When I was a kid my school held fire drills at least once a month. There was no “ignore any and all alarms” in those days. There were only anxious teachers hustling 7-to-12 year olds out to the playground to stand in neat rows and (hopefully, some of us thought) watch the school burn down.

Of course, no fire drill can hold a candle (no pun, no pun) to the atomic bomb attack drill during which we were told to hide under our desks. Now that’s something that will keep you up at night. I remember lying in my bed and hearing the sound of an airplane flying overhead, wondering if this was the Russian bomber sent to destroy my way of life, and if I would have time to get down to the school to hide under my desk.

The school never burned down, the Russian bomber never came, I grew up, and I remember thanking God my kids wouldn’t have to grow up with that kind of fear.

Then came 9/11.

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