Monday, August 5, 2013

Fifteen Seconds

In fifteen seconds I can type, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” twice on my iPhone—with the help of autocorrect. In fifteen seconds I can do about fifteen jumping jacks. In fifteen seconds, I cannot wash my hands for the CDC-recommended amount of time (it’s 20 seconds, in case you were wondering). And had the “Red Color” alarm gone off while I was in Sderot today, we would have seen if I—and the approximately 24,000 others in the city—could have reached the safety of the nearest bomb shelter.

Fifteen seconds. That’s all the time the people of Sderot have from the moment the “Red Color” alarm begins until the Hamas rockets explode, shooting knives, glass, rocks, and other skin-piercing materials through the air in hopes of striking anyone who was not quick enough in those fifteen seconds.

School children know only a reality of hiding from these rockets. They have been trained to run as soon as a woman’s voice announces, “Red Color” over an alarm system. It is not a drill, the alert notifies these children and the rest of the population that a real rocket has been launched and will be exploding in fifteen seconds. That’s quite different from the earthquake drills I grew up with, when a woman’s voice did appear over the intercom, merely saying, “this is a simulation of an earthquake.” My classmates and I responded by rowdily crawling under our desks and tuck our heads under our hands, often while laughing and not taking the situation seriously, until the woman’s voice came back to say, “end of simulation.” In my 15+ years of public schooling I’ve experienced three real earthquakes, and only one large enough for the alarm to go off instructing us to crawl under the desks. And I can tell you that it took us all much longer than fifteen seconds.

For the children and adults of Sderot, of Israel, their most recent reality is a constant repetition of these fifteen. I find it hard to demonize a country that spends millions of dollars on the construction of bomb shelters, including caterpillar-shaped ones for a playground, in order to try to make those fifteen seconds tick just a little bit slower. 

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