KADNER: When the nuclear missiles fly, what will you do except cry?

SHARE KADNER: When the nuclear missiles fly, what will you do except cry?

South Korea’s Hyunmoo II ballistic missile is fired during an exercise at an undisclosed location in South Korea, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. | South Korea Defense Ministry via AP

You have 30 minutes, maybe less, before a nuclear missile hits. What do you do?

I saw a man in Hawaii lower his child into a sewer. Fortunately, the emergency warning was a false alarm. But just how long did this fellow plan to keep his child down there? A few minutes, days, weeks …. What if he had been killed by the initial blast? You think the small child would have been OK on her own?


Most of us never think about such things outside of end-of-the-world movies. The people who do seriously ponder the consequences of nuclear war spend most of their lives building nuclear shelters deep in the woods, stocking them with food, purchasing weapons, trying to figure out ways to purify their drinking water.

The rest of us hear emergency alerts on TV and ignore them. This is only a test, after all, and had this been a real event we would have been screaming, crying, running around the house trying to figure out what to save and where to hide.

No one even bothers telling us where to hide any more. Maybe that’s for the best. When I was a child, we were told to hide under our desks at school, or to stand in a hallway against the wall.

Government officials never stopped to wonder how we would get home. That’s probably because the guys in the know knew we weren’t going to make it; not if nuclear bombs began falling on Chicago.

And even if we did run right home, how long before our skin began to peel off our bodies or the food we ate rotted us with cancer from the inside out?

A nuclear war with the Soviet Union, our primary fear in the early 1960s, was a no-win proposition, yet we nearly sent the missiles flying anyway when we learned Russia was putting nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Now it’s another tiny country causing us trouble, North Korea.

Some government employee in Hawaii hit the wrong button, or the right button in the wrong way, and suddenly everyone there believed tactical nuclear missiles were on their way. Even after elected leaders figured out it was a false alarm, 38 minutes passed before anyone could figure out how to send out the false alarm notifications.

Some people cried. Some people kissed their loved ones goodbye. Some people got in their cars and drove. Others ran and ran and ran through the streets. Where were they going?

Did it really matter?

Officially, our government contends that if you take cover in a designated shelter, parking lot, basement, even a plain old house, you increase your chances of survival since fallout comes down and settles rather quickly (meaning days). There is no mention made of what happens if you are close to the strike zone because you are dead.

Also, there is no mention made of what happens to the entire world if we get hit with a nuclear bomb and we hit that country back and a third country gets involved and the nukes just start flying everywhere. Nobody wants you to think about that as if the lives of your children depended on it.

In fact, the government really doesn’t want you thinking about how silly these emergency messages on TV are and how little we can do once the mushroom clouds start rising.

That’s why now is the time to maybe ponder that situation, just as the people in Hawaii had to confront it. I’m not talking about collecting emergency supplies and digging tunnels, I’m talking about a rational policy that does away with nuclear weapons forever because sooner or later some nation led by an idiot or a lunatic might push a button in a moment of anger, or simply by accident.

The next thing you know you are going to be kissing your children for the last time and stuffing them into sewers. If they are very lucky, they will end up living like rats.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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