I saw this post on Twitter
And it brought back memories of the bomb shelter drills when I was in elementary school. They were frightening, to say the least, and they certainly captured the Cold War feel of the time. As a child, I didn’t understand why our teacher was so cheery. Did Communists, aka Commies, really want us dead? I seriously doubted if there was any way to actually protect us from a bomb. Hiding in the bowels of the school was nuts.
Then there were the Saturday afternoon Atomic Age movies like “Them,” where atomic tests cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters, and “World Without End,” where Astronauts returning from a voyage to Mars are caught in a time warp and are propelled into a post-Apocalyptic Earth populated by mutants. Scary stuff for a kid with a vivid imagination. I had many sleepless nights worrying about atomic bombs.
Here’s my child’s eye view of what I remember about the drills:
BOMB SHELTER DRILL
We march single file behind Miss Heskitt
down the stairs with the no-slip strips
around the glossy cement walls into a hole
under Independence Elementary School.
Things I can’t see feather my neck,
Miss Heskitt’s smile is as benign
as cancer. She can’t fool me.
I’m old enough to understand things—
communists, the atomic bomb
and its mutant creating mushroom cloud,
the “Twilight Zone.”
After the drill, eyes blinking, we return
to daylight and our classroom
with its tidy rows of desks and chairs,
but something has been altered.
Doug slams a desktop on George’s fingers
and I just want to go home. “We are here,”
Miss Heskitt says and points to a dot
on a brightly colored map of the world—
green, red, yellow and blue countries
that look like puzzle pieces, I see the enemy
is far away, but it feels like he’s here,
now, beating his fists inside my head.
“Bomb Shelter Drill” was first published in Verse Wisconsin, and later in my poetry chapbook, Security. By the way, Miss Heskitt was actually one of my favorite high school English teachers. It’s in this poem because I liked the name, too. It has an appropriate brisk, snappy sound, doesn’t it?
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, adult contemporary fiction
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
What happens when our examination of the events and people that shaped our lives leads to more questions than answers? After a devastating family secret derails every aspect of her life, Angelica is caught in a whirlwind of bad decisions and wrong turns. With two children in tow, she begins a journey of self-discovery of her past as she struggles to believe in love and the power of redemption.