It’s two o’clock in the morning and I am jolted awake by the harsh
sound of the air-raid siren, cutting through the rhythmic drumming
of rain on the roof. Quickly, I light the candle on my nightstand, grab
the half-packed satchel beside my bed and stuff my blanket into it,
snatch up my pillow under my arm and run for the nursery. I sweep
my two year-old brother, Anton, into my arms and dash into the
kitchen. Six year-old Sofie runs in, trembling like a leaf, but with her
small emergency satchel swung over her shoulder and pillow under
her arm, themini mirror-image of myself. A few seconds later, Mama
and my twin brother, Franz, come in, each bearing satchels, Mama
carrying the baby.
Mama shepherds us into the pouring rain, and onto the frantic,
crowded street, full of panicked women, children and teenage boys,
who, like Franz, are too young to join the army. We are all running
desperately toward Gesundbrunnen underground train station,
which leads into windowless Bunker B, where we shelter during
these frequent raids. The three minute walk from our home to the
station feels more like hours, as we glance hurriedly at the rain-
blurred sky, searching for, but hoping to not see, Allied planes.
We reach the bunker just as the first bomb rocks the earth. We
scramble through the unmarked green door on the underground
platform, leading to safety. I slip on the wet concrete stair as another
bomb shakes the ground beneath my feet. For a split second, I see
myself tumbling down the stairs, the unlucky Anton still in my arms.
But I feel Franz’s strong grasp on my arm as he steadies me and we
continue down the stairs.
The frame around the door entering the airlock is lit with
luminescent paint, making it easy to spot. Beyond that, there is a
series of warren-like rooms. We walk together to the room reserved
for mothers with young children, which, unlike the rest of the rooms,
houses walls lined with bunk beds.
Franz and I help Mama to get settled with her babies before
heading out into another room filled with wooden benches. Just as
we are sitting down, the all-clear siren goes.
Now that the adrenaline of the evacuation is gone, my feet feel
like lead as I slowly clamber to my feet and make my way back in to
Mama and the little ones with Franz. We slowly climb four flights of
concrete steps out of the bunker and three more flights up from the
platform of the station and eventually make it home, into dry clothes
Candles Go Out