Once sirens sounded, 'business as usual' no longer applied in Kuwait City
March 21, 2003
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — Things went on relatively normally in Kuwait City until around noon, when warning sirens began to drone periodically throughout the city’s neighborhoods.
As people drove to work in the morning, the only sign of change was the increased presence of Kuwaiti military and police vehicles along the sides of major highways.
Police cars, with their lights flashing, were parked roughly a half-mile apart on the roadways. Soldiers manned armored vehicles, surrounded by sandbags and tents, which were more rare along the highways.
Although there were media reports of explosions along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, no sirens or blasts were heard Thursday morning in Kuwait City, about 30 miles away from the border.
Stores were open, fast-food restaurants had cars lined up at their drive-through windows and government workers were seen collecting trash and pouring macadam.
But by noon, the city and the surrounding areas quickly became ghost towns.
The scores of American restaurants — such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Johnny Rockets — that dot the area were shuttered and closed.
More military checkpoints were erected along the roads, and workers were being sent home.
Forouk Mohammed Mullah, a citizen of Bangladesh who works at a Subway sandwich restaurant outside Kuwait City about three blocks from the Persian Gulf, was frustrated his manager hadn’t decided to close.
“I called him and told him everyone else was closing,” said Mullah, standing outside the shop as workers at neighboring restaurant loaded a truck with propane tanks and other equipment.
“I don’t want to die, but I don’t know what to do,” said Mullah, who just married last month.
Mullah, 28, said business was drastically down. Normally, he would sell about 100 sandwiches by noon. But on Thursday, he had served just 50 customers.
As Mullah talked, another siren began to wail. He admitted he was puzzled by exactly what he should do.
“We should be alert. Get to safety,” said Mullah. “Hopefully my manager will call.”