Isaac Nelson, a resident of Cedar City, describes taking his wife out to see the first explosion. It was dark, he says, just before daylight, "and we were chattering like chipmunks, so excited! Pretty soon, why, the whole sky just flared up in an orange-red flash, and it was so brilliant that you could easily see the trees ten miles across the valley, and if you had a newspaper you could have easily read it, it was so bright. . . ." Later, he says, town residents stood outside to watch the fallout clouds drifting up through Cedar. Isaac's wife died of brain cancer that developed shortly after one of those evenings spent watching the fallout cloud float by.
|Grandma, with Aunt Judy and Mother|
My mother developed breast cancer about the time of my earliest memories, and she often spoke of her own mother's death from cancer. As children tend to color the world based on their own limited set of experiences and family stories, I then logically assumed that everyone contracts cancer at some point and saw that eventuality as a simple, if sad, fact of life. I accepted death with similar logic, aided by a religious perspective that emphasizes eternity. I never quite grew out of those assumptions.
Consequently, when my husband's brain tumor returned from vacation with a vengeance, I recognized a pre-established pattern and quietly began planning for the inevitable. I know to some that view rings fatalistic, even regrettably morbid, and I suppose that if I saw death as an end--to self, to relationships, to progress--I would have to agree. As it happens, I see death more as a transition. With that in mind, our little family, each of us in our own time and fashion, began to plan for life on the other side of the approaching metamorphosis. Our son, just a toddler when his father died, absorbed and reflected his insulated world, blithely oblivious to the shock of innocent bystanders when he announced matter-of-factly that his daddy had died and was now in heaven.
I think of these patterns as the crisis unfolds in Japan. My Asian contemporaries grew up in a more striking nuclear shadow than I did. In August 1945, the United States dropped "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two generations later, the nuclear pattern renews unexpectedly in the wake of an earthquake, once again fundamentally altering families with the fallout of power run amok.
* Nuclear Testing and the Downwinders (from Utah History on the Go)
* Fallout Effects: Impacts of Radiation from Aboveground Nuclear Tests on Southern Utah (from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality)
* Cancer Incidence in an Area of Radioactive Fallout Downwind From the Nevada Test Site (from the Journal of American Medicine)
* Compensating Life Downwind of Nevada (from National Geographic)
* A Utah Resident Remembers Atomic Testing in 1950s Nevada (from the American Social History Project)
* Radioactive Fallout to St. George, Utah (from Washington Nuclear Museum and Educational Center)