Amber Alerts

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, numerous Californians were startled by the blaring sounds of Amber Alerts coming from their phones. We were to be on the lookout for a blue Nissan Versa. Up until I received that alert on my iPhone Monday night, I had no idea that our phones could even receive such things. When my phone first started beeping, I actually thought it was the television having some sort of meltdown.

And then I started to see the Facebook statuses. You know, the ones that make you do that face-palm motion. The ones that make me want to take some people by the shoulders and shake them and ask (more like yell), “What is wrong with you?” These statuses all centered on one thing: how annoying the Amber Alerts were. Christ, people. First world problems, much?

Yes, I too agree that the noise our phones emitted was quite distracting and maybe even borderline annoying. But I also believe we should not opt out of this new program. The alerts we received earlier this week were the first of its kind. Although Amber Alerts have been sent to cell phones since 2005, the program required people to sign up. But thanks to FEMA and the Wireless Emergency Alert program, those of us that own cell phones will now automatically be receiving Amber Alerts and emergency weather alerts based on our proximity to the emergency itself.

Maybe I’m a little too cautious or maybe I worry over nothing, or maybe I’m simply in the minority group of individuals that think this program is extremely beneficial. But again, this opinion is coming from the woman who, when she was a little girl, used to hide those “Have You Seen Me?” ads of abducted children that came in the mail because my worst fear was being kidnapped. And I never could bear to look at those kids’ eyes – they were always smiling in those pictures. And even at six years old, I would sit there and think about what their families were going through, what they were going through – I knew none of them were smiling. And I hated that my mind would go to such dark places at such a young age. So I hid them. Probably not the best way to confront your fears, but hey, everyone has to do what works for them.

Ultimately, I think it’s the remnants of that fear that make me support this program so strongly. The kidnapping of Hannah Anderson was what prompted those alerts to come through in the first place. And as soon as I retrieved my phone to try and shut off that awful noise, I read the message – and all of a sudden, I was six years old again. Thinking about Hannah. And how terrible humanity can be sometimes. Many times. It’s sad that we have so much evil in this world.

Yet we have the power to do something about it. Or at least the potential to. I encourage everyone to not opt out of this program. Don’t automatically go to straight to your iPhone settings and swipe the button to say “off” when it comes to government notifications. Currently 98% of all wireless subscribers in the United States are a part of FEMA’s new program. The program also supports over 200 phone models. In the nineties, we were simply relying on items like the radio and highway signs to inform us of emergencies. But it’s cases like these where I am so thankful for the technological advancements our society continues to make.

I know that it may wake up a sleeping baby or that it might interrupt your favorite television show, but I guarantee you, what you “suffer” by hearing that sound and getting these alerts is NOTHING compared to what those kids are going through. Think about it – especially those of you that have children of your own. And yes, I did see those Facebook statuses that decided to bitch about how that noise woke your kid or baby or toddler up. Those infuriated me more than anything. Those people I would like to grab by the shoulders, shake them, and say, “What if that was your child? Wouldn’t you want more people to give a damn?” Empathy, people. We need more of it. We need to remember that every day, people go through such terrible and shitty things, and it’s our job to try and make our world a little better – even if that’s simply by leaving your notifications on. I promise I’m not trying to be overly preachy here, and even if I am, I’m fairly certain I could prove to you the validity of the points I’m making. I’m keeping my alerts on. I hope you do, too. And I hope those children are found. My prayers go out to them and to all of the other lost souls out there. Let’s not forget about them. If anything, these alerts should serve as a reminder of how lucky we are. How lucky we are that we have our families by our side, how wonderful it is that we have some degree of normalcy, how amazing of a privilege it is that you are sitting there on your smart phone or tablet or computer with the ability to read this. These alerts should be a welcomed interruption into our lives. A wake up call, if you will, as to what’s important and what really matters.

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