A Heart-Stopping Warning

It has been many a long day since I have been so terrified. On Wednesday, not twenty feet away from me, a tornado siren went off for its 1:00 test. It was brutal, horrible, heart-stopping, mind-numbing, deafening, throbbing, and horrendous.

And, yes, necessary.

A real tornado would be worse. I know this to be true. But still, I could not believe the volume. I could not hear anything else, though I shouted at it, bemoaning its terrors. Every thought I had, every breath I took was channeled away from their former paths, forced onto the grinding, glaring, ragged world of SOUND.

At times it intensified, adding still more pressure to my disbelieving heart. I did not know that it was so brutally LOUD; could not accept that this was the way it should be. WHEN WILL IT EVER STOP?

I was reminded that nature is greater than I am.

I imagined words, “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system. This is only a test. Had this been a real emergency, the sound you heard would have been followed by instructions for your safety…” or whatever it is that those television and radio tests used to say.

The noise ended, but my heart still beat too fast, my ears still rang.

It reminds me of the time some army tanks passed me in West Berlin. I was on my way home after school and came through the gate at the base out into the real world when there, in front of me in all their clanking and clanging glory, were three tanks rolling by. I was terrified, partly by the noise, mostly by the knowledge of what these things were capable of. The sheer size and volume and scope of the machines was enough to send me almost into tears.

Yes, I was thankful that they were on my side, ready to protect me and my liberty, but the reminder of what liberty can cost…that was terrifying.

I am thankful, as well, for tornado sirens. For the warning they can bring. For the difference between life and death. For the scientific world that I live in today.

But please, oh please, may I never again be writing away in my car, windows down, without a care in the world, and then faced with the heart-attack noise of their alarms.

Not unless there’s a real tornado, of course. Then, bring them on.