Wednesday, June 20


Eyes tightly shut
against the would-be flash,
we dutifully braced
for impact.

Hands clasped behind our necks,
noses inches above the floor -
huddled like that, as we had
a hundred times before
for what seemed like hours,
until the teacher said,

“All clear,”
and we got up again,
sprouting above our desks
like so many flowers.

* Beginning in the 1950’s, “Cold War” era instructional films were shown to American school children to teach the finer points of surviving a nuclear attack from Russia or Red China. These propaganda films also featured basic hygiene procedures to follow after the bomb hit, such as shampooing your hair and sponging your clothes free of unsightly nuclear fall-out particles, etc.

“Duck & Cover” drills were designed to keep citizens safe by assuming the position under a desk or table whether in the classroom, work place or even outdoors on a family picnic. Drills were conducted at schools across the nation with the regularity of a common fire drill.

Now there has been much talk about the ‘paralyzing fear’ cold-war children suffered under the ‘constant threat of a nuclear holocaust’and how it emotionally disfigured us for life . . . well, I have yet to meet anyone who felt so tortured. We performed our bomb survival rituals with the same acceptance as any other hum-drum school routine.

Bomb drills were discontinued with the end of the Cold War in the 70’s, only to eventually be replaced by “Lock-Down” drills during the 90’s in response to the uniquely domestic phenomenon of school shootings.

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