An Anniversary

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.

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9 thoughts on “An Anniversary

  1. My childhood phone was MU82700 – you’re right; it’s funny how some things ‘stick’ to the brain. Then, one thought wanders to another. I’ve found the more analytical research you do the more the brain will wander through different chain of events. Let’s hope Japan doesn’t experience the magnitude of disaster of Chernobyl.

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    1. Hi Rick. Welcome to my blog. So far the disaster in Japan has been rated one level lower than Chernobyl. It seems that the Fukushima reactor was built better and perhaps the emergency procedures have been better defined since Chernobyl. It’s such a shame, really, that there have been these two monumental catastrophes since nuclear energy is such a clean form of energy. It’s difficult to convince people it’s safe when these things happen.

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  2. April 26, 1986… I was finishing my last semester in College. I admit to have been completely disconnected to the outside world. Did not read newspapers, could not afford a TV, computers were just starting back then and of course I could not afford one and the Web did not exist then anyway. I did not hear about Chernobyl until I got back home, and probably could not place it then. I was astounded that something of that magnitude had happened. How could an entire area be ruined totally ? It was and still is very eerie and horrible at the same time. If I let my mind wonder… right about that time was when I saw Abufares last, and then I can go on and think we never got to say good-bey ( my fault), and how he is back in Syria, and how bad things are there, and how bad but not so bad things are here with crime and drugs rampant everywhere, and how my daughters live too far away from home where they also have crime, and Baltimore is one of the mayor crime cities in the USA, and Laura graduates next month and We will be there for the graduation and hopefully nothing catastrophic will be happening in the world that I will have to remember in 25 years!

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    1. Hi Hebe. It’s so great to see you here. 🙂 It sounds to me, my dear, that you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. I certainly share your concerns about Syria, and crime rates, and children. But listen, this is why I do such silly things as look up my old phone number. It alleviates the tension…if even only for a few minutes. Hugs.

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  3. In 1986, I was still at school too. And I remember that tragedy because my older brother was very interested in international news and always involved the rest of us.
    My childhood telephone number is unlisted now, so I don’t know who has it. But yes, I’d feel like it’s being invaded!

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    1. I wish I had been more interested in world events at the time or had someone in the family who was. I tended to be more like how Hebe described herself at the time – cut off and disinterested. The funny thing is I remember finding out about Ukraine several years later as if I’d never heard of it before. I guess we referred to the USSR at the time and not the countries they became after it broke up. Funny how things have changed. 🙂

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  4. A very entertaining read (as usual). My first phone number was 777 🙂 We had an old crank phone which we used to call the operator and ask him to connect us to “Grandma”. I don’t remember asking to be connected with a number but always with “the House of My Uncle” or something like that.
    In April of 1986 I was already back in Syria Hebe. If I’m not mistaken I spent all of that month outdoors hunting quails. It’s possible that a stray pellet (from my shotgun) blew a hole in the Chernobyl reactor but don’t quote me on that please. The rest of course is history.
    If we try to imagine what one might be doing in a particular moment in time we might come up with either a very realistic or outrageous situation (or both). For instance, do you remember Isobel what you were doing when I posted this comment?

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    1. I can answer for myself to your final question, Abufares: By that time I was buying delicious recently baked bread to be eaten at night, previoulsy heated on a little oven. Then I went to the drugstore and after that I had some sunglasses repaired. All in a four blocks area.
      Wonders of being self employed and living in an area where everything is literally around the corner.
      😀

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    2. I can say at the time of your comment, Abufares, I was enjoying my morning webstitutional. I mean, really, who reads the constitution any more? 😛 Gabriela’s activities sound much more interesting though. lol!

      Did you know there are actually people out there who can remember every moment of their lives? They have what is called “superior autobiographical memory.” (see http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/16/60minutes/main7156877.shtml) Not sure I’d want that. There are some things I’d happily forget.

      So we have you to blame for Chernobyl? Were you also spear fishing in the Pacific Ocean near Japan a month ago?

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