Being bombed in Shanghai

It was 1944, and the American planes flew over us regularly. First there would be the sirens, a shrieking wail up and down warning us to seek shelter (which was a joke, there were very few shelters). My big sister Maria and I decided to stay in place, not even under the bed, and we got a show to beat all shows. The building 500 feet from us and in full view through our bedroom windows suddenly exploded and roared in resounding cracks as it collapsed in flames. Listen, Maria said, that is the gas pipes going up.

Our parents were resigned, and then so were we as we watched the show. We would either be bombed ourselves or not. There was nowhere to go except under our beds. Our ahmah cried out in the kitchen with each thudding bomb; the poor woman was wishing she had stayed on the farm with her husband, who was not having a good time either. The Japanese army had pretty much demolished his livelihood by confiscating the crops to feed themselves.

At dawn the sirens gave voice once more, a prolonged cry that told us the bombers had gone and left new rubble on the streets.


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