Thingish Things

The Fukishima Heroes

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 15•11

Brave Companions by David McCullough (Simon and Schuster 1992) describes sacrifices Americans have made throughout history to advance the national cause. Most of these portraits involve well-know figures like John and Washington Roebling, Charles and Anne Lindbergh, Frederic Remington, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

But others describe the courage of veritable unknowns, those laboring on the Panama Canal under intolerable conditions or fighting gun-slinging strip miners in eastern Kentucky. One I’ll always remember is the Army Corp of Engineers officer who experiments on himself, and dies, to prove that the malaria killing his men  is caused by mosquitoes not swamp gases.

McCullough’s book comes to mind this morning while reading about the 50 remaining workers at the Fukishima nuclear plant in Japan. All other workers have been evacuated, but 50 remain behind to do whatever they can to forestall a nuclear meltdown. It’s as close to a suicide mission as one can imagine.

We aren’t taught enough about such heroes — the submariner who shuts the valve on himself to save his ship mates; the nurse who comforts the contagious in a pandemic. History textbooks record some; most go forever unknown.

But here in Japan, before our very eyes, are 50 profoundly brave players in a life and death scenario of extraordinary magnitude. They are risking everything for others.

We should know their names.



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