This story opens up in the home of Dr. Bill Stockton where his family and neighbors are celebrating his birthday with a cake and some speeches in his honor. But as they are celebrating, a television announcement tells them to tune into the radio and listen to CONELRAD to hear a bulletin on an emergency situation. The bulletin tells them that the Distant Early Warning radar has detected incoming objects that may be a missile attack.
The neighbors leave and run home. Dr. Stockton, and his wife Grace and young son Paul start collecting supplies and fill water bottles before heading into their bomb shelter. Just before they locked themselves in their neighbor Jerry Harlowe shows up and begs Dr. Stockton to let Jerry and his family share the bomb shelter. Stockton explains that he can’t because the shelter only has the capacity to provide air for three people. After a heated exchange Stockton locks the shelter door with Harlowe still outside.
Now the rest of the neighbors who were at the party show up and start panicking and come up with a plan to smash in the shelter door. But then they start fighting about who gets to be in the shelter. There are even the obligatory racist and anti-immigrant sentiments from one man against his Hispanic neighbor.
Just as they finish bashing in the door, they hear the CONELRAD announcing that the incoming objects aren’t missiles but a satellite and there is no danger. The rampaging mob collapses in relief and shame. They all start apologizing to Stockton and each other for their insane behavior. When someone says that the bombs didn’t destroy them after all, Dr. Stockton says that maybe they’ve destroyed themselves.
So Serling reveals his liberal bona fides for all to see. He manages to make a bomb shelter an Un-American abomination and reveals all of our neighbors and families to be racists and hypocrites. Charming.
I’ll grant that anxiety over impending thermonuclear war might not have us acting like saints but painting us as Nazis is a cheap shot. F.