I cannot be home for a while..
"Please continue to live well. I cannot be home for a while." These words have come to encapsulate the struggle of the emerging heroes of Japan's nuclear crisis.
They were sent by email to the wife of one of the "Fukushima 50" – the middle and low-ranking operators, the technicians, soldiers and firefighters – who remain at the stricken power plant after all others have fled, exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation but fighting to stop it spreading further while haunted by the grim spectre of what may happen if they fail.
Heroes Who Volunteered to Stay Behind at Japan's Crippled Nuclear Plants
Daughter Tweets That Her Father Has Volunteered and 'I Am Really Proud of Him'
They are the nameless brave men who are working as the last line of defense at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plants. They stayed behind while everyone else was sent nearly 15 miles away and radiation soars to menacing levels.
There are 200 of them and they work in shifts of 50, earning the inaccurate nickname the Fukushima 50.
At one point, even these men were pulled back 500 yards from the deteriorating nuke plants, but this morning it appears the crisis team was heading back in.
A 27-year-old woman whose Twitter name is @NamicoAoto tweeted earlier this week that her father had volunteered for Fukushima duty.
A day later she tweeted, "I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and I my eyes are filling up with tears.... At home, he doesn't seem like someone who could handle big jobs...but today, I was really proud of him. And I pray for his safe return."
An admirer of the Fukushima crew tweeted, "Whatever's the closest int'l equivalent to the Medal of Honor - Nobel Peace Prize? -- The Fukushima 50 deserve that, and more," he wrote.
Japanese Prime Minister Naota Kan told the volunteers, "You are the only ones who can resolve a crisis. Retreat is unthinkable," according to the Financial Times.
They are working as temperatures at the plants soar to nerve wracking levels, radiation is leaking, rain may be carrying it down upon them, and a toxic fire burns, likely spewing more radiation into the atmosphere.
There is little information about who actually stayed behind, but nuclear experts say the skeleton crew is likely made up not of managers, but of technicians, men who have the schematics of the plant in their head and can fix pipes and unclog vents.
They've gone into battle, crawling at times through dark mazes, armed with flashlights and radiation detectors, wearing full body hazmat suits and breathing through cumbersome oxygen tanks.
Potentially deadly doses of radiation surround them as they work, and their suits do little to prevent radiation from seeping into their bodies.
Updated: 5:09 PM GMT on March 19, 2011
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If the disaster in Japan was going on here in the USA...there would be fighting...looting and general Mayhem...these people in Japan are waiting in line for hours for water..patiently...we Americans would storm the truck and take the water...and then CRY that our government wasn't doing enough fast enough .
Welcome to da Doghouse...right Clem?
Updated: 5:15 PM GMT on March 15, 2011
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