Tag Archives: holocaust

Five Minutes to Live

The alarms are blaring outside and the TV has the shrill piercing beep and a warning to take cover immediately—that North Korea has launched missiles that will reach the U.S. in less than 5 minutes.

I’m so scared that I am almost in a catatonic state, finding it hard to believe that this is the end for us all. For weeks we have been getting dire predictions that war is imminent but like everyone else I did not really believe it. How could that be? How could any rational person let the rhetoric get so out of hand that here we are. But when you have so many lickspittles in Washington not willing to stand up to this administration, it was inevitable. When you have an unbalanced President who stokes the fires and provokes, and thinks it is macho to use the nuclear weapons at his disposal, it is bound to happen. I go through the motions of grabbing my birds and jumping into my bedroom closet—the safest place. But, as I am doing this I know there is no safety anywhere and I am doomed. Well at least I will die fast.

I close my eyes, think of my children and feel so sad that I will not be able to say goodbye. I harken back to when I was a child and I used to play the game of what if: what if the Russians launched a bomb and we were told it would hit us in 5 minutes? I remember saying that I would hide in the closet with no other thought of what would become of us. I remember hiding underneath the desk at school for our bomb drills and cannot believe that this is it and all that practice was for naught. However, I take solace in the fact that at least I won’t get any older, and that maybe I will see my boy in heaven, all healed and beaming. A feeling of peace and calm comes over me as I pray. Those sweet parrots of mine know something is wrong and instead of squirming and squawking they are quiet and strangely attentive, just sitting with me. I think of all the things I wanted to do and never did. I oddly worry about my computer and laptop, and my beautiful camera equipment. I think that nobody will ever know I existed because all traces of my life will be obliterated with everything else. I wonder if by some chance I do survive the initial impact, how long will it take for the radiation to travel and how us survivors will die a slow and agonizing death. I think back on the movie, “On the Beach” where survivors who lived in Australia waited for the inevitable. I remember the ominously preternatural TV movie, “The Day After” and try to remember how long it took for Jason Robards to die of radiation poisoning. I think of my friend whose entire family moved to Australia during the cold war, only to move back to New York a few years later. I wonder who will succumb first—me or the birds? I think that if only I had taken my phone into the closet I could at least say farewell to my son, but in my haste I left it outside on the counter. I wonder if anybody will be posting on Facebook or the Kardashians will post doomsday selfies, maybe burying them in a time capsule to let the future inhabitants of the world know who the beautiful people were. Will my pictures or paintings survive? How about my IRA—will I have money to live in the new apocalyptic world. Will I lose my hair and where will I get my hair done in the new world if I don’t die, knowing full well all these thoughts are totally ridiculous?

Then during my foray into the dire future or lack thereof, I suddenly become aware that the sirens have stopped and there seems to be some announcement on the TV. I wonder if I am just dead already. I listen carefully and decide to venture out of the closet only to hear the amazing announcement that a miracle of sorts has happened—the U.S. has intercepted the missiles and the strike has been averted. We will live—I will live—my children will live. The announcer is saying that the threat is over and during my rejoicing and relief, a cold and dark shadow appears to pass over me making me shiver and I sigh and say, “For now.”

The Bomb

I was reminiscing with my friend last night and she reminded me about what it was like during the time when a nuclear holocaust was a very real possibility. I guess today we worry about mass killings, terrorists, and ISSIS. But back in the early 60s, annihilation of our world as we knew it by the Bomb was the main cause of anxiety. Childhood should be a carefree time of innocence, but as children growing up in those days, the Bomb loomed large in our consciousness. During that time, everywhere you looked in Manhattan, was the ubiquitous bomb/fallout shelter. In Stuyvesant Town, where I grew up, each building was equipped with a carriage room where we kept bicycles, carriages, and things of that sort. However, during the paranoia of the Cold War, our carriage room doubled as the official fallout shelter, complete with the circular, yellow and black symbol promising survival; never mind that the walls were not designed to protect us from a nuclear attack and it was not equipped with any long-term survival gear or food and water. I guess this was the only place in our development that would at least semi-meet the requirement that all buildings have such a “safe place.” As a little girl, I remember being outside in the playground, or on the street, when suddenly the loud blare of air-raid sirens would usher us indoors to whatever building we were near. It became so “normal” for this to happen periodically that it was just an annoyance and nothing to be concerned about. Then an all-clear siren would signal us that we could come out of hiding and resume our activities. In school, we had “bomb drills” where we would huddle under our desks as protection from flying glass—not even thinking that we would all be incinerated. My brother and I played a game of “what would you do if?” We would ask, “What would you do if you found out that the USSR launched missiles and you knew you only had about 5 more minutes before they hit?” I would answer that I would hide in the bedroom closet, knowing full well that it would be over for all of us. These childhood games were born of pure FEAR about the future of our world—something that children should not have to think about. I vividly remember opening the front door to my best friend, Janet, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and seeing her worried face reflecting exactly what I felt—namely that we might all be doomed. That feeling of pure helplessness was something I’ll never forget and the fear I felt that day is still palpable for me

The fallout shelters provided people with a false sense of security because in actuality, the city would have been flattened and we’d be liquefied. If anybody were “lucky” enough to survive the initial attack, the radiation would slowly take its toll. But, as humans we wanted to believe we had some measure of control and these shelters met that need.

As the years rolled on and the Cold War lessened, those bomb shelters and signs gradually disappeared giving way to a tenuous sense of security. Unfortunately dangers still exist wherever we go and we cannot escape them. But what made that time period different from the world crises we currently face was that the very existence of the earth and our species was threatened—that life on this planet would cease to exist, and that horrible fate was in the hands of mere mortals.