This is only a test

April 10, 2018

        Today’s news on my favorite radio station was interrupted by a rude, insistent buzzer. The repeated, off-key tone was vaguely familiar. It was followed by an easily recognizable announcement.
        “This has been  a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was only a test. If it had been a real emergency…”
         The announcement continued to list possible emergencies such as a tornado or a nuclear power plant accident and assured us that in a real emergency this irritating buzzer would be followed by helpful safety information. I had read that there was going to be a test of the tornado alert system so I should have been expecting the sound.
          Yet the alarming buzzer brought back memories of my teen years, back in the ’60s, when such alerts would come on the radio at least weekly and television ended every day with the test pattern. Now those days of the “cold war” seem so safe compared to today.
          The buzzer also reminded me of my divorce in the 1980s. I faced a series of traumas in those days, my son’s health, financial problems, even typical homeowner hassles like a thunder storm surge that destroyed my only television. Every time I would face one of these traumas I would hear that buzzer in my head and the announcer saying “This is a test. It is only a test. Had it been a real emergency…”