Kids in Israel grow up fast during attacks WAR IN THE GULF


TEL AVIV - When the siren warned of a missile attack, 12-year-old Carin Fletcher had no time to be afraid. She had too many things to do.

She had learned how to put on a gas mask in school, so she helped her grandparents, who were confused by the strange masks. She put on her mask, then she put wide tape around the door to seal it from a chemical attack. She stuffed a towel underneath the door.

Finally, it was her job to listen to the radio to find out when it was safe to go out. Her mother was busy with Carin's 7-year-old sister. And her father is part of a city emergency team in Tel Aviv that rushes to see how much damage is done by the missiles.

"So I was the man of the family," said Carin, with a delighted laugh. "I was too busy to even think of what was happening."

Carin is in seventh grade. She wears blue jeans, an American sweat shirt and a huge smile beneath her wild black hair. Wherever she goes, she carries her gas mask slung over her shoulder, its cardboard box decorated with stickers and the words, "Love, Kisses, Be Happy, Cool."

After the gulf war started, Iraq launched missiles at Israel. The first few attacks were close to Carin's home, so her family moved to a suburb in north Tel Aviv, with Carin's aunt.

There, she had a new responsibility when the sirens sounded: She had to round up her German Shepherd dog, "Keeper," and her aunt's Labrador, "Bobby," from the yard.

"They were pretty scared by the sirens," she said.

School was recessed for almost three weeks because of the attacks. "It started being boring. I missed my friends," Carin said. Her teachers sent homework to all the students, and "I did it quickly, not like I usually do," she said. "I guess I missed having homework."

When school finally resumed, it was different from before the war. The windows were sealed with plastic. The students practiced hiding, in the gas masks, under their desks, in case of an attack. Recess was shorter, and the bell for classes was changed to a jingle so it would not be confused with an air raid siren.

"It sounds like an ice cream truck now," she said.

Ditza Arad, the principal at Carin's junior high school, said she is proud of the way the students have remained calm.

"I anticipated quite a reaction from kids," she said. "But in many ways, they are much more mature and much more understanding than the adults."

Carin takes it all in stride. "It's the first time I have had the experience of war," she said.

She is much too modest to brag. But she admits that her mother tells friends how much Carin helps during the air raid alerts.

"That makes me pretty happy," she said.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad