(Nukemap simulation of Soviet atomic strike on Greater Boston with 800kt airbursts over the probable targets of Logan Airport, sickness MIT and surroundings, rheumatologist Hanscom AFB/Waltham tech sector, Peabody/128/95 tech sector)
The apex of my apocalyptic dread struck during my first year of junior high school, the nightmare visions of atomic annihilation dovetailing splendly with my burgeoning hormonal angst to create the perfect storm of existential dread. It was the year of The Day After and “99 Luftballons.” I remember watching Reagan’s triumph on election night, my certainty that this spelled the end of all things amplfied by the lingering pain of an unrequited homeroom crush.
I spent the better part of two months suspended in a state between crushing depression and hysterical terror. Every siren I heard, ever jet passing over the neighborhood, every unexpected interruption of our regular programming was met with a long moment of bowel clenching panic. My nights were haunted by dreams of painful lingering death from fallout and my days were well stocked with mundane reminders — classroom lectures, news articles, sci-fi potboilers, pop songs — that the Doomsday Clock was edging close to midnight.
I eventually came to grips with the most crippling manifestations of that anxiety, but the underlying dread has lingered. Mortality is a tough enough concept for an adolescent to come to grips with when it involves isolated single instances, much less the constant (or “constantly emphasized”) threat of global thermonuclear annihilation.
That sort of thing tends to leave a mark, trust me, and the ghosts of Hiroshima will never be truly silent.
Recommended listening: It’s always thirty seconds to midnight somewhere.