They test the emergency sirens in Columbus, Ohio at noon every Wednesday. When I was four years old, at the height of the Cold War, someone explained to me what purpose they served. They neglected to mention that it was perfectly normal for them to blare away every week, and that it didn’t mean World War III had started.
The days rolled by and, as you might imagine, Wednesday started on schedule. The civil defense sirens, also on a schedule, started their mournful song at twelve o’clock. But this time they were more than a large noise in the background of the afternoon. This time it meant that there were men wearing fur hats flying high above in airplanes, and that I was about to die screaming as I burned.
That was pretty much the Cold War for you. We were all going to die in fire, a rather grim image to place in the head of an impressionable four year old. But everyone knew it, everyone dreaded it, and no one could figure out how to keep it from happening. We were just wrong, is all.
Nowadays I expect an American city to suffer a nuclear attack, but it will be from religious fanatics instead of Communist fanatics who reject all religion. At least it will be one city, or two at the most, instead of every place in the US where more than 10,000 people live. The smaller scale doesn’t make me feel any better. I just hope it doesn’t happen until after I have died from natural causes, so I won’t have to live through the aftermath.
You know what does make me feel better? The fact that everyone was wrong about how the Cold War was going to turn hot. I hope I am wrong about this.