“ “After an accident, everyone will be asking why we didn’t do something. We need to be asking these questions before it’s too late.” Mark Samuels
What with the wars and rumors of war swirling around our heads during this holiday season and a president who threatens nuclear war as if it were his kid’s soccer game but with hellfire and blight, I thought I might say a word here about unintended consequences.
Thumbing through the interweb yesterday, I found an article that would rattle my Aunt Sadie. I’ve always though I was safe in Arkansas. Who wants anything Arkansas has? But four decades ago, Arkansas evaded a nuclear holocaust at a missile launch complex just outside Damascus, Arkansas, 129 miles south from where I sit, previously oblivious, writing this.
That September 18, 1980, David Powell dropped a nine-pound wrench socket into a missile silo during routine maintenance. It was an accident. It pierced the missile’s skin. He was twenty-one. Then the missile leaked. Do you know what hypergolic fuel is? I didn’t. Now I do and it’s explosive and flammable.
On top of that leaking Titan II, sat doomsday in the form of the most powerful thermonuclear device ever on American soil up until then. For the next nine hours, airmen hustled to keep Arkansas from exploding along with that broken weapon, and spreading fallout on the lot of us. Keep in mind, this is Arkansas, from the Delta to hillbilly country, nothing to see here but some nature and one presidential library.
In Arkansas, we aren’t tactical. We are backward. Our Elected officials are, for the most part, rabidly conservative. We have no oil, nothing you would want but some water we have to fiercely protect. So I guess it seemed OK to put Ragnarok in our backyard. They do it out west all the time. But when I found this out, it spun me. Now I go about my chores—plant in spring, tend the garden in summer, harvest in fall, rest in winter. In every season, I know I am my own enemy, sitting on silos, sitting on nuclear waste, on explosive debris, on a missile I didn’t know was there.