Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Tragedy. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics

On April 26, 1986, the routine 20-second shut down of the system at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant seemed to be another test of the electrical equipment. But seven seconds later, a surge created a chemical explosion that released nearly 520 dangerous radionuclides into the atmosphere. The total power of the explosion was estimated to be more than 100 times that of the atomic weapons used in World War II.

The force of the explosion spread contamination over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. About 8,400,000 people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, more than the population of Austria, were exposed to cancer-causing radiation. Land half the size of Italy was contaminated. Millions continue to live in an environment where continued residual exposure creates a variety of health problems.

A local writer, Svetlana Alexiyevich from Belarus, has written, "We do not yet possess a system of imagination, analogies, words or experiences for the catastrophe of Chernobyl."

There are events and experiences which leave us speechless. They remind us of the inadequacy of words to express some of the deepest human emotions. In this case, it is our horror, anger, and compassion which defy the normally wonderful ability of language to convey how we feel. Sometimes, thankfully, it is delight, joy and beauty which go deeper than words can communicate.

Today we enter again in our imaginations into the suffering and horror faced by victims of Chernobyl, men, women and especially children, some of them not even born in 1986. As with other extremes of human experience, perhaps silence is the most appropriate response.