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Essays > On This Day

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message 1: by Bonita, scribbler (last edited Apr 26, 2009 02:23PM) (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 73 comments Mod
This morning, I clicked on Dictionary.com to look up a word I didn’t know (sluiceway) and ran across “This Day in History” on the home page: Chernobyl Accident... http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary...

Twenty-three years ago, on April 26th, a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine exploded. To most of the small town hicks around me, this means very little. Even to me, that nuclear explosion seemed like something from an action movie or a science fiction book I may have read. Fact is, most of us Americans read about earthquakes in Italy or crime wars in China and then forget about it the next day, because it doesn’t hit close to home with us. Nobody cared about the swine flu in Mexico until a handful of people in NYC got sick. And this is really a shitty thing, you know – that we are so easily able to disconnect from it, like a flip of the light switch before going to bed.

But I remember.

"The reactor accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the worst in history, resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown. On 26 April 1986 at 01:23:40 a.m. reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant located in the former Soviet Union near Pripyat in Ukraine exploded."

In 1986 my Uncle Daniel (only a year or two older than me) came home from the military. Mom got the call. Daniel was in a Colorado hospital, dying of thyroid cancer derived from the nuclear fallout. Grandma Becky (who was married to my Grandpa Jack at one time) said that his unit had been sent to clean up the radioactive contamination at Chernobyl. My first thought was, “Where the hell’s Chernobyl?”

I remember writing “Dear Daniel,” on a cheap-ass note card that was blank inside. I stared at that blank white space for the longest time, so long that the white space expanded. I thought I might pass out.

What do you say to someone who is dying? What would become of the young little wife who was carrying his child? Would she be the one to read this card to him? I remembered us kids washing our hands before dinner and Daniel saying, “Don’t use that towel; dad wipes his fanny with that one.” And I used it anyway, because the boys threw all of the other towels on the floor. I remembered his crooked, mischievous smile and bright blue eyes, the prankish connection we shared, and the summer we collected bottle caps so that we could make mud-scrapers and sell them to our neighbors, only we didn’t sell any because it hardly ever rains in June.

I wrote something like, "Stay away from fanny towels." or "That fort we built is still there. I love you." or "That’s a really shitty thing that happened to you." and I may or may not have dropped the card into the mail slot. That was my last communication with Grandma Becky or any of that part of the family. I suppose they moved back to the Mormon state. I sometimes think about Daniel’s brother, David, and wonder how this disaster in a foreign country has changed his life.

I remember this day well.

On April 26, 1990, four years after the spill, my son Christopher was born.

This day, I remember.




message 2: by Connie (new)

Connie | 4 comments Thanks!

I can relate. We called them 'significant emotional events' in Officer Training School...they are generally thought to be events that shape who we are regardless of their impact on others.

On 24 April 1986, I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF. I remember the day. Two days later while coaxing my 4-cylinder Oldsmobile up the foothills in Colorado I heard the news report about Chernobyl. I remember the drive. Two days after that I reported for duty at the USAF Intelligence Technical Training Squadron, and the instructors staged a mock Soviet-style May Day Parade--the meltdown played a significant role in the parade. I remember the weight that descended on me as I started to understand the path my life had just traversed.

Late April 1986 encompassed several pivotal significant emotional events in my life, but the impact you experienced was totally beyond mine.


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