The quiet heroism of men

Posted on September 22, 2011 by

A description of the male workers at the Fukushima plant is haunting me:

A number of workers trudge toward the gym; hardly anyone speaks. Some stumble when they have to stoop over to strip off the plastic covers from their shoes. Others rip off their suits with both hands, as if every tenth of a second counts before they can finally remove the hot and sweaty suits from their bodies. Then they stand in line for radiation checks.

Most workers wear only long-sleeved dark-blue underwear under the suits. Those who have to spend particularly long periods in the oppressive heat and humidity are also allowed to wear turquoise vests under their protective suits. These vests contain a coolant designed to protect the men from heat exhaustion. Several workers have already collapsed. In August alone, 13 were admitted to an emergency room set up in front of reactors 5 and 6. A 60-year-old worker died in May, presumably of a heart attack…

The members of the radiation detection team are now working in three shifts around the clock. He has often seen workers “at their limit — not only physically, but also mentally.”

Most jobs are simply dirty work, he says. According to Akimoto, many of his co-workers who work for subcontractors had no choice but to come here. “If they refuse, where will they get another job?” he asks. “I don’t know anyone who is doing this for Japan. Most of them need the money.”

They are doing this horrifying work to feed their families. They need the money, so they sign up to die a slow and painful death.