Known Unknowns

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All of the emergency testing done today on everyone’s cell phones evoked some personal experiences. In my case, I take you back with me to the fall of 1977 at my school, Anona Elementary in Largo, Florida.

I’ve been told several times by my parents that they hated my first-grade teacher, who shall remain nameless here – she’s probably long since departed the world by now. Maybe I was too young (six years old) to know the hate, or that I really couldn’t afford to hate her – I had to deal with her every day, my “folks” didn’t.

Early in the year, the school decided it was a good idea to hold a fire drill. I went to the same Anona Elementary in southwest Largo for my kindergarten year, and I don’t remember there being fire drills in that 1976-1977 school year – and I haven’t thought about it enough to wonder if fire drills were a new thing in 1977. My guess: probably not.

So one day, we see a word on the chalkboard about a fire drill occurring at such and such a time. Not having a clue what a fire drill was, only to depart the classroom when you heard an alarm – it kind of gave me a bit of stress. We (me and my fellow classmates) didn’t know what the alarm would sound like, so there was a bit of ambiguity on that score.

Maybe it’s just me and my thought process – but when you know something is going to happen at such-and-such a time, it tends to make me more anxious than an event would if no warning had been given. The magic moment is drawing near on the classroom clock, and I remember panicking to the point where the teacher is questioning me why I’m in a panic – as if she didn’t know.

No, I didn’t have an involuntary bowel moment or something like that – I’ve never had that kind of trouble in my life as of yet, knock on wood or my bowels.

Anyway, the moment comes – and the buzzer sounds, which is kind of a relief because the “EHRRRRRR!” noise is not as bad as I was expecting, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect. The evacuation of the classroom was tidy and not anything I remember. We also had “duck and cover” drills a few times a year to prepare for severe weather and the like – and that would take place once a year, and mysteriously wasn’t practiced after the seventh grade or so.

The “duck and cover” drills were taken a bit more thoughtfully when I grew up, for good reason – a few miles to my east, an elementary school DID get hit by a tornado when I was still in the first grade on May 5, 1978.

That’s why you prepare for such events, I suppose. But getting by those initial preparation and perceptive barriers – I imagine I wasn’t the only kid who ever freaked out about those kinds of things.

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