Today is the last Wednesday of July 2017. Every last Wednesday of the month, the siren alarms go off outside the building where I live for their routine testing and maintenance. These are civil defense sirens, used in case a hurricane or some other danger is threatening the coast.
Until today, I have only heard the sirens every last Wednesday of the month. I hope this remains the case till I leave Puerto Rico. As much as a hurricane sounds like an adrenaline rush, this powerful natural phenomenon is not a joke. The irony for me is that I grew up in Lebanon, a war torn country, but had never heard the sirens before.
I remember the first time I heard the siren test back in May 2016, I was so worried. I ran to the balcony and the windows to see how are the beachgoers reacting to this warning, and was a little mad to see that no one was giving a damn. Then I opened the apartment door to see if any neighbors might care. Nothing. Oddly, when I communicated the event to my family in Beirut via WhatsApp, I was nonchalantly told that siren alarms are usually tested on Wednesdays. Huh?
These must be the siren alarms I missed out on in Lebanon, then. Between us, I am glad by the time I was born those sirens were not working in Beirut anymore. I can’t imagine them going off every other day asking people to go down to the shelters or to watch out for some random attack here or there. They are so noisy. I understand that they are important. My suspicion though is that, just like in Lebanon, the best siren alarms in Puerto Rico are the people and their word of mouth.