It’s hard to believe it was 70 years ago.
It was 1944. WWII was in full swing, but battle fronts were far from U.S. shores.
Along with my parents and younger brother Walter, I lived in the safety and tranquility of suburban Long Island.
But tranquility is not the stuff of nine-year-old play.
Without TVs, computer games or smart phones, we amused ourselves outdoors—seeking adventure in fields, woods, ponds and treetops—coming home mainly for lunch and dinner.
Our serenity was interrupted from time to time by the Civil Defense air raid drills and blackouts which began in 1942 and continued until the War’s end.
We nine-year-olds considered ourselves pros in the arena of Civil Defense.
The morning after a nighttime air raid drill, details of the drill were recounted—or, more often, made up—by our group of friends.
One-upsmanship was a vital ingredient during these morning debriefings.
Because I was a worry wart, my parents assured me that these were simply drills—not the real thing—so I soaked in details as though I were investigating a crime scene in a Nancy Drew novel.
I love the stealthy look of the wartime dark shades that hung in our upstairs windows—just waiting to be yanked down in case of enemy attack.
I carefully inspected the half-moons of black paint on our car’s headlights—meant to minimize car headlights during an attack.
One air raid drill stands out in my mind. My younger brother had used the bathroom in the middle of the night and left the light on.
Being sound sleepers, none of us heard the 3 a.m. knock on the door by the local Air Raid Warden.
The next morning my parents received a stern scolding from the Warden who pointed out that ours was the only house in his ward with light glowing from a window.
We felt we’d shirked our duty in the war effort.
As I look back on the innocence of my life in 1944 and the horror of what was going on in the rest of the world, I am humbled.
Now, 70 years later, news on TV brings scenes of bloodshed, suffering and destruction into our living rooms.
Air raid drills have become the real thing—no longer an exercise to be talked over the next morning.
When will we ever make the world a safe place for children?