In most tragedies, there arises those tremendous souls whose bravery, unselfishness and sheer determination allow them to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. During this latest tragedy in Japan which suffered one of the world’s worse earthquakes and its subsequent tsunami, there are 180 men called the Fukushima 50. They are called that because they work in shifts of 50 each. They have either been asked by Tepco, the energy company that operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, or have volunteered. They are technicians and older men who have either already retired or about to retire. They were not chosen because they are expendable or because they have more knowledge and skilled, but their age will protect them from the long term effects of radiation. It could take 20 to 30 years for radiation related cancer to set in and many will probably die from old age before then, a lesson learned from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
From the articles and news feeds I have read, five of these brave men have died, two are missing, and 21 have been injured. Japanese Prime Minister told the volunteers that they were the only ones who could resolve the crisis and that retreat was unthinkable. The Japanese media have heard from some of the families of these incredible men. One daughter tweeted that she was very proud of her father. Another tweeted “Please, dad come back alive.”
These men are heroes. They are facing high levels of radiation to cool down reactors and stabilize the plant to protect their families, their countrymen and possibly all the citizens of the planet. And let’s not forget the other heroes that roam the debris, looking for survivors, wrap blankets around the homeless and providing other needs. Even in the midst of tragedy, we can see the hope, the strength, the incredible beauty of the human spirit. We can see the grace of God. No matter how much we may feel we have evolved, or how sophisticated we might become, we are humbled by the incredible forces of nature. My prayers and admiration go out to those brave men of the Fukushima 50. I pray for them to be strengthened by their courage and love for their families.