The world has properly focused on the uncertain fate of the crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in northeast Japan. With this fast-moving story still unfolding, we have all struggled to understand the current and future risk of radiation release to the environment, as well as possible short and long-term impact on human health, both to workers, local residents, and perhaps those beyond local borders. Like the word "cancer," the association of the words "nuclear" and "meltdown" strikes an emotional chord in people around the globe. But we don't yet know, and may not know for weeks to come, the true magnitude of the technical problems or the degree of human exposure to radiation.
We need someone to tell the stories of the dead. Yet this is not possible now in a fast-moving news cycle where the focus is more on the technological, social, political, and economic implications for the future. In time, writers will help us understand some of the people who were taken away by a towering wall of water.
But for now, even as we worry about the fate of Japan's nuclear plants, the best we can do is to stop for a moment and imagine. Not just to memorialize faceless dead, to mourn individuals who lived a culture and an ocean away, yet with whom we share a common humanity--to stop for a moment and to imagine who they were as people.
Photo: A body, covered in a blanket, lies in the rubble of a destroyed neighborhood as firefighters search the area in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan. By AP/David Guttenfelder