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Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Sirens In The Morning

In America and most any place in the world, hearing police sirens is a normal thing. If you hear a lot of them, it means that there may have been a bad accident or fire. You get used to it to the point where it doesn't even bother you or wake you if it happens in the morning.

Living in Manhattan for 4 and a half years, you hear a lot of sirens and a lot of honking. The first couple of weeks of college, I used to have a hard time sleeping because of all that noise. Then, it became like blended in background noise to the point where I couldn't sleep without it. It would be too quiet. On 9/11, I lived on the 3rd floor of my dorm building, on 34th street. After the attacks, the emergency, army, vehicles, and shift changes used 34th street as the main street down to the Towers. There were sirens all the time, but you get used to it, and you knew what it was about. When we heard sirens at midnight, we knew it was the shift changes. It got to the point where me and my roommates could identify the different types of emergency vehicles coming down just by the sound. But, we didn't think anything of it except where they were going. It didn't wake us up in the morning when we heard them.

This morning, at a little past 7:00 AM, my husband got out of bed suddenly because he heard a lot of sirens. I only woke up after I heard him get out of bed, not because the sirens woke me. It only took me a millisecond to figure out what he was thinking: Terrorist Attack. He heard a lot of sirens and was trying to figure out where they were going. I got out of bed then too, my heart beating a mile a second and told him to turn on the news. Nothing was being reported. Finally, we saw that all the fire trucks, ambulances, Zaka people, and cops were going up the street from us to respond to some emergency. I was completely frazzled, but my husband was just able to say, "OK, nothing serious, I'm going back to bed". It took me a little while longer to calm down.

But, that's the difference between here and the rest of the world. When people hear lots of sirens here, they immediately think one thing: Terrorist Attack. It's only after that that they think it could be the result of some accident, fire, or some other "regular" emergency. And, they're so used to it that when it turns out to be "nothing serious", they're able to just turn it off. I'm not quite there yet. The sirens didn't wake me up because I'm used to them, and my first thought was not terrorist attack when my sub-conscious heard them. I probably thought accident or something but not terrorism. I hope, actually, that I never get to that point.


At 1:16 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Interesting post. We just don't get sirens up here in the quiet north.

A close cousin of mine, who lives in Jerusalem, said that when you hear one siren, it's a cop. Two sirens is a fire or a traffic accident.

Lots of sirens, plus a helicopter, means it's time to worry.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Exactly. I don't want to get to that point, though. I don't want to think every time I hear more than a few sirens, a bomb's exploded nearby.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Michael said...

That's what I like about the quiet north.

Actually, my cousin said that about the sirens about 2 weeks ago, when there was an alert for a bomber (they caught him). My parents were visiting, and asked about the noise. Our cousin seemed pretty non-plussed about the whole thing, but then, she's lived in Jerusalem since the early '70's...

Personally, I still find it a little freaky that the cops always have their flashers on.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that you aren't yet "at that point" speaks volumes about the difference between Jerusalem now and Jerusalem in, say, 2003-- where you pretty much could have safely assumed that lots of sirens signified a bombing. For some reason, I find your lack of immediate association of sirens and terrorist attacks to be encouraging, in a semi-veiled way.
Shabbat Shalom.

At 3:35 AM, Blogger Yankee Doodle said...

It's funny how the same stimulus means different things to different people based on the environment they are from. I suppose the emotional damage done by 9/11 will never be fully known.


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