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  Field Notes From
Weapons of Mass Destruction



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On Assignment
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From Author

Lewis M. Simons



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From Photographer

Lynn Johnson



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by deKun Photography (top), and Brian Strauss
 

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Weapons of Mass Destruction

Field Notes From Author
Lewis M. Simons
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I met a woman from Salt Lake City who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which her doctor attributed to radiation fallout from the Nevada Test Site. I found her very inspiring because after months of treatment, which finally beat the cancer into remission, she maintained a positive attitude. She turned an experience that should have left her bitter into one that gave her a reason to educate others about radiation, cancer, and the government's role in it.



In Kazakhstan I interviewed a woman whose twins had been affected by radiation fallout, but I wasn't prepared for what I encountered. When I walked into her house—which was little more than a shack—the terrible stench hit me in the face. Her 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, were completely incapacitated. The girl laid on a bed with this sweet beatific smile while her grandmother rubbed the child's feet to help her circulation. The boy was in the next room. His body was twisted and nothing more than skin and bones. At that point I really felt that the tragedies brought on by weapons testing were beyond all excuse. Even though doctors confirmed that the children's illnesses were caused by radiation, this woman got nothing from the government. Not one cent! I was terribly depressed afterward and, in some ways, I still have not recovered.



A guide accompanied me to Semipalatinsk, where the Soviets tested nuclear bombs for 40 years. We walked around the place, which is now just a desolate field, and eventually came to a red triangular marker with a sign stating that we were at the epicenter of where the above-ground bombs were dropped. At that moment my guide's Geiger counter started going nuts, clicking so much that it was almost screaming. When he looked at it, the count was 200 times higher than normal. It didn't take us long to clear out after that.





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