There is a familiar sound that I have not heard in many years; I often wonder about how I would react if I ever heard it again. It is a sound from my childhood, a big part of my memories from growing up as a little girl in Iran. It is a memory that I share with all of the other little boys and girls who grew up in Iran at the same time that I did. A loaded sound full of meaning and full of deep emotions that echoed throughout the streets of our city mostly in the middle of the dark quiet nights spreading rays of red shock through every single sleeping body. It is the sound of the RED ALARM (ajeereh ghermez), warning us of the enemy's attack.
The Alarm began with the words "Attention, Attention", the voice of a very serious announcer who warned the residents of the city of the approaching danger and urging every one to move to a "safe" location. After the announcer was done with his speech, the high and low waves of the RED ALARM took over and continued for eternity.
Some times I would wake up and jump out of my bed immediately as the first "Attention" was said, some times it was the melody of the red waves that brought me out of my dreams and into the dark night, and some times I was woken up by my parents who had jumped out of bed and rushed into my bedroom. Holding a flashlight, my father would lead my mother and I down four stories (63 steps) to the garage, which was the lowest part of the building and where our "safe" location was. We shared that spot with the neighbors from our building who had jumped out of bed just like us, had ran down the stairs just like us, were holding a flashlight in one hand and a small radio in the other hand and wearing pajamas just like us. Turning a light on was a great mistake because it would draw attention to our location, therefore we stood in the dark and waited. We waited for a bomb to drop on our city.
As we waited, we listened to the sound of the shots firing throughout the dark sky that tried to bring down the enemy's airplane, the airplane that was carrying a bomb and looking for a light to drop it on. Then it would happen, the big one, the loudest of them all, the bomb. After hearing the bomb, silently we would take a deep breath, then wonder about friends and family and wonder if it was any of their homes this time that was shattered and blown up and their bodies torn apart. Right after the bomb was dropped, the radio played the WHITE ALARM announcing the departure of the enemy's airplane and the clearance to go back to bed. The WHITE ALARM was a flat note. We would say our goodbyes to our neighbors, go back up the 63 stairs and slide back into bed.
Episodes like this occurred multiple times throughout the 8 years of war (based on decisions and quarrels within politicians) so it had become part of our childhood. Even though we did not understand it, it was what we knew and what we had accepted (there was no other choice), yet when the big BAM shook us now and then, our little bodies shook with fear as well. We were frightened just as any one would be in that situation, when their life is at risk, but we were used to it. You could see this when at times we whispered and laughed with the neighbors' kids under the dark staircase and some times even played games while waiting for the bomb to fall down on us. You could see it when we all woke up the next morning, got dressed, had breakfast and went to school, just like any other ordinary day. To us, it was part of life - doesn't every child go through this every now and then? They must, because it would be such an unfair life if it was just us who had to live life like this -. When you are a little child and you grow up with something, you believe it to be normal and the common way of life, and that is what we believed of the enemy's attacks. Now that I think about it I realize how scary, unnatural and fucked up that situation was.
The high and low of the RED ALARM which was a big part of my childhood will always stay with me as it is ingrained in my memory. I remember being able to see the color RED in the notes. Even though I have not heard that sound for many years and even if I never hear it again I know the words that came out of the little radio by heart and the tune of that melody by ache.
The funny thing is that to this day I still do not know what that 8 year war that took so many innocent lives was about?!