The Sound of Sirens

Photo credit: Oklahoma City Examiner

The one thing that has distinguished the past couple of days from most is that at least once each day we have heard sirens wailing in the distance.  My mom even commented on this.  Many of you will shrug and think, “So what?” and I understand this.  When we lived in St Louis, the mournful wail of emergency vehicles was so ever-present it was just part of the background noise that we tuned out – unless the siren came into our neighborhood.  

But here emergency vehicles are so rare that the sound of a siren, even in the far distance, will pique our interest.  If it’s a long way off we note the time so if we hear a report about its purpose on the radio news the next morning we can say, “I heard that.”  If it gets nearer folks will walk out into the yard and crane their necks trying to determine where the vehicle is, what direction it’s traveling and whether any smoke is visible. If it gets close, little knots of people will drift down the street to see what’s happening to whom and if there’s anything we can do for our neighbors who are obviously caught in a bad time.

Rarely is the siren from a police car.  What little crime does occur out here is almost never responded to code-3, but is investigated well after the fact.  Quietly.  Patrol cars do sometimes run with lights and siren when going to a bad accident.  Fire trucks are not a real common sound either – unless they too are responding to a motor vehicle crash.

We do have a lot of those: folks driving way too fast for our twisty, windy roads; drifting into the other lane like they’re the only car on the road – and being wrong about that.  It can get ugly.  By far the most common siren bearer is the ambulance.  Sometimes it’s a crash, more often it’s someone at home having health trouble.

Those evoke a special outpouring of sympathy from me; I remember only too well what it was like.  I’d get a call from Mom (whose house is here on our property) “Patrick is having a spell, I’ve called an ambulance.”  And I’d run down to their house to wait for, flag down and direct in, the mobile emergency room.  Most of the time this was the beginning of another long hospital stay for Pat, another hospital room camping vigil for Mom, and another round for me of house sitting / cat caring / and long runs to Knoxville to bring Mom supplies and occasionally bring her home to get one good night’s sleep between bouts of watch-dogging.

Patrick passed-on and an ambulance has not backed onto our property since.  But, when I hear its mournful, lilting wail, memories of those times come back and I say a little prayer for the family of the person the mercy wagon is running for.

In closing, allow me to apologize to Simon & Garfunkel for the not-so-subtle reference to their song in my title.  If you caught that allusion: congratulations – you’re officially a relic (like me).

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