Typing Test


Second Secretary of the Regional Committee told them to carry on as planned. The Party's primary concern at that point seemed to be to establish that an accident on such a scale could not happen at such a plant. We had adequate stores of potassium iodide pills, which would at least have prevented thyroid absorption of iodine 131. We were forbidden as of yet to authorize their distribution. So throughout the afternoon children played in the streets. Mothers hung laundry. It was a beautiful day. Radioactivity collected in the hair and clothes. Groups walked and bicycled to the bridge near the Yanov station to get a close look into the reactor. They watched the beautiful shining cloud over the power plant dissipate in their direction. They were bathed in a flood of deadly x rays emanating directly from the nuclear core. The fire brigade which had first responded to the alarm had lasted 15 minutes on the roof before becoming entirely incapacitated. There followed a round the clock rotation of firemen, and by now 12 brigades, pulled from all over the region, had been decimated. The station's roof, where the firefighters stood directing their hoses, was like the door of a blast furnace. We learned later that from there the reactor core was generating 30,000 roentgens per hour. What about helicopters, someone suggested. What about them? someone else asked. They could be used to dump sand onto the reactor, the first speaker theorized. This idea was ridiculed and then entertained. Lead was proposed. We ended up back with sand. Rope was needed to tie the sacks. None was available. Someone found red calico gathered for the May Day festival, and all sorts of very important people began tearing it into strips. Young people were requisitioned to fill the sacks with sand. I left, explaining I was going to look at the site myself. I found Mikhail. He was already dark brown by that point. I was told that he was one of those selected for removal by special flight to the clinic in Moscow. His skin color had been the main criterion, since the doctors had no way at that point of measuring the dose he'd received. He was on morphine and unconscious the entire time I was there. As a boy he'd never slept enough and all of his face's sadness always emerged whenever he finally did doze. There in the hospital bed, he was so still and dark that it looked like someone had carved his life mask from a rich tropical wood. At some point I told an orderly I'd be back and went to find Petya. While hunting for his apartment address I asked whomever I encountered if they had children. If they did I gave them potassium iodide pills and told them to have their children take them now, with a little water, just in case. I found Petya's apartment but no Petya. A busybody neighbor with one front tooth hadn't seen him since the day before but asked many questions. By then I had to return to the meeting. The group had barely noticed I was gone. No progress had been made, though outside the building, teenagers were filling sandbags with sand. All of Them: Heroes of the Soviet Union By late afternoon the worst of the prevaricators had acknowledged the need to prepare for evacuation. In the meantime untold numbers of workers had been sent into the heart of the radiation field to direct cooling water onto the non existent reactor. The helicopters had begun their dumping, and the rotors, arriving and departing, stirred up sandstorms of radioactive dust. The crews had to hover for three to five minutes directly over the reactor to drop their loads. Most managed only two trips before becoming unfit for service. Word finally came through that Petya too had been sent to the medical center. By the time I got over there he'd been delivered to the airport for emergency transport to Moscow. When I asked how he'd gotten such a dose, no one had any