The Brave and Few at Fukushima

Each hour, the urgency of headlines from Japan heightens. All but fifty workers have evacuated the nuclear plant, where pools covering spent fuel rods evaporate and threaten renewed fission.  Without names or faces, these fifty heroes are protecting an island of 127 million.

Felicity Barringer, a Times reporter who lived in the Soviet Union 35 years ago, recalls the heroism of local Ukrainaian firefighters working to prevent nuclear disaster.

Still, there are sparks of recognition that drive home the similarities, too — for example, the selflessness of the Japanese plant workers laboring in the radiation danger zone, described by my colleagues Keith Bradsher and Hiroko Tabuchi in Wednesday’s newspaper. I thought instantly of the firemen from the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, who took their hoses onto the roof and directed water into a hole that opened onto blazing fires and exposed fuel rods.

I can’t help but read these headlines – shudder - and remember Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. My fourth grade class cried as we read the short novel and watched a young girl succumb to leukemia in post-atomic Japan. Sadako’s story is the tragedy that the Fifty remember, and the future that they’re working to prevent. May tomorrow bring better news.

While we await the outcome at Fukushima, donate to the Red Cross to help thousands of victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

Image: NYT

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