Sometimes it’s funny how the mind works. You start thinking about one thing and you end up in an entirely different place but it is completely associated with the first thought. What the heck am I talking about? Well, I’ll tell you. It all started with Google…as most things do these days.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that Google usually commemorates world events in its page title depiction. Recently I’ve taken to clicking on the title if I don’t recognize the reference to see who or what it refers to. As one would expect from Google, this takes you to a page of related websites. Today they were celebrating a French-American ornithologist named John James Audubon who was born on this date in 1785. Not being much of a bird enthusiast…oh I like birds I’m just not an enthusiast…I was…how shall I put it…disinterested in the topic. That’s when I decided that something more significant must have happened today in world history. Boy! I couldn’t have been more right.
April 26, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Today was the day, back in 1986, when an accident caused the meltdown of the nuclear reactor there.
It was in the early Saturday morning hours on April 26, 1986 when a Soviet-built nuclear reactor suffered a cataclysmic system failure, resulting in an explosion that blew off the reactor’s roof. The explosion led to the contamination of large territories in present-day Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Roughly fifty people, most of who were involved in emergency response and recovery, died of radiation sickness in the immediate aftermath. The Chernobyl Forum, a cooperative research programme led by the IAEA and WHO, concluded in 2005 that an estimated 4,000 people are likely to die prematurely in the coming years as a result of their exposure. Everyday life in the region was greatly affected as over 350,000 people were evacuated from severely contaminated areas. The accident left an indelible impact on life in the region.(IAEA)
Naturally, when one thinks of Chernobyl one thinks of Fukushima, or vice versa, and I decided to read up on comparisons of the two (see here). Although the disaster at the Fukushima reactor in Japan was terrible and we have yet to find out what the long-term effects will be, it was still less destructive than Chernobyl. Chernobyl leaves an unfortunate and chilling reminder of what can go wrong when processing nuclear energy. After 25 years the radiation levels have fallen enough that the land can be used to a certain degree for “economic purposes”. (that statement would not be enough to convince me to go there)
I think back to 1986. Apparently, April 26th was a Saturday. I was in Grade 11 back in Stratford, Ontario and it was a day before my Mom’s birthday. What was I doing that day? I’ve racked my brain trying to remember but I can’t. I do remember discussions of Chernobyl – not on that particular day but probably that following week. I can vaguely see in my mind the images in the newspaper and on the television. I remember being afraid. I remember feeling terrible for the people who were affected.
I decided to see if the Stratford Beacon Herald had a reference to articles it had published that day on its website archive. It was a long shot. The “sneakin’ Beacon” as we used to call it, was not renowned for its world news. Locally, there was good coverage but you couldn’t expect more. There was nothing. No reference to Chernobyl – not even the 25th anniversary. But they had a local phone directory…
And that’s when I discovered that someone else has MY childhood phone number. Yessirie…273-1975…my family’s phone number for at least 27 years now belongs to someone else. That’s just wrong. It should have been retired when my parents left town. It’s OURS dammit!
My how the mind travels.