encounter narrative; throwback thursday recap at sibirskaya
I intend on giving my most vivid anecdote on the incident I witnessed, not through the news, TV, or some social media tweet, but in person. I was a private nuclear contractor that worked at different nuclear plants around central Russia. Unfortunately, the disheartening news hit at the time of the year I got booked the most, so I knew I was going to have a fair share of cleanup in the mess that had emerged. It was a Monday morning, and to my surprise after getting back home from a run, my phone had been blowing up with calls from different numbers, and I kind of felt something was not right. Apparently, the head contractor of the company that assigned my routes was one of the callers, and that was quite unexpected because I always finalized my routes with him latest by Friday of the prior week. I had received texts from family asking if I was okay and if I need anything, they should let me know.
I was certainly oblivious to everything happening in the moment till I accessed the voicemails of my boss who relayed the information of the nuclear meltdown that happened in Seversk at the nuclear reactor Sibirskaya. He asked if I was willing to head down there to help with the emergency situation that had taken place. I had always heard about the stories of nuclear meltdowns from some veteran colleagues who survived life and death experiences, so it was quite surreal to be caught up in such a reality myself. My mind went blank for a second but my hard wiring of being that guy who likes to be dependable in hard times called back and said yes. Everything was moving so fast and for a good period felt like a force unknown to the human experience was taking over. Anyway, I was told to get ready and show up at one of the resource facilities where I would be picked up at 3pm. It occurred to me that in the incidence of me not making it back my family should know the exact details of my whereabout, and even though I had the slightest hesitation, I ended up calling my parents to tell them about my decision. I could tell they wished I had refused to go to Sibirskaya but knowing their son all too well and how hard wired I am in times like, they respected my will and gave me their blessing. My dad said if I come back alive, I would be a hero. It is almost as if I wasn’t about to step into a life-threatening situation with that advice, but I knew at that point I’m most definitely from a lineage of risk-takers. Nobody knew what the outcome would be but for some reason I was willing to deal with it.
I arrived at the pick-up facility and joined a much larger crew of nuclear contractors. We were briefed shortly, and in about half an hour we set off and arrived at the nuclear facility in Sirbirskaya. We had been cautioned to come well prepared with a ton of safety and protective equipment, so we did and were fully geared with masks, eyewear and specially made coveralls. All the workers had been evacuated by the time we got there and that was relieving to know. Much of the fires and chaos had been smothered, but the plant had gotten hit hard and it was certainly far from what it looked like the last time I was there. The place looked a mess, and It was just fellow risk-takers with heart, who could regret for the rest of their lives in sight, but well it was not the time to look back since I was already there. At about 5 pm, we were given the go ahead to enter and I could not fathom seeing the effects of the meltdown with my naked eyes. A lot of the offices had their glasses shattered, pieces of brick and wood laying all over the place; it was a complete tragedy. We had to quickly make it to the heavily secured perimeter of the building where the nuclear reactor was placed, and repeatedly pump water into the reactor to make sure it was cooled down enough to power the other machines of the plant. This operation took us 8 hours of non-stop working to get done. We had to be meticulous and sturdy in our duties since the least mistake could create more chaos. Eventually we got it done and were transported out of the facility at 2 am back to the sub-facility.
It was a crazy experience and scarier than what was portrayed on the news. I knew I had fulfilled my duties and purpose, something most people could care less about. I had no regrets at all, and as a matter of fact those of us who showed up to relieve the situation were honored by the city. The only tormenting thing after the experience till date is turning on my TV at any given moment and hearing some health expert discuss the effects of meltdowns on it’s victims and how some victims of the Sirbirskaya incident are telling their stories. That breaks my heart and frightens me at times even though its been years and my routine check ups at the hospital claim that I am fine and ease my worry. Maybe it was meant to happen, and I cannot be mad about what the forces of nature do best; create and destroy.