It started with the atomic bomb. I was just a child when I learned that our U.S. scientists had figured out how, with one finger on one button (or maybe several buttons), to drop a bomb out of an airplane and annihilate half a country.
The knowledge got to me. For years I had childish nightmares, woke up sweating because I’d dreamed that the world around me was exploding in a mass of flame.
Ever since, I’ve argued with everyone, including my husband, that this was the worst sin any country could commit—developing, then using, a weapon that had the potential of destroying half the world. “But it saved endless American lives,” Rob said, “maybe even mine. All the men who would have died invading Japan.”
This week it happened again. Suddenly my computer screen came alive with horrifying news. “A Malaysian passenger jet has been shot down over Ukraine.”
My first thought: What was a passenger plane doing, flying that low?
The awfulness arrived in stages. Within an hour we learned it wasn’t THAT LOW. The plane was flying at 33,000 feet! Then another brutal fact: 298 Souls On Board. (An NTSB term)
The final stage arrived several days later, via the Los Angeles Times. The missile developed by Russia can reach a target at 70,000 feet! Higher than any passenger jet ever flies.
Is this terrible news common knowledge? I wondered. “Did you know that such a weapon existed?” I asked Rob, who reads everything, and all the time.
“No,” he said. “I only knew about shoulder launchers that could catch a plane on takeoff or landing. I’ve worried about them—how easy it would be.”
“You know what this means,” I said, and all my warm feelings about the NTSB and TSA and how they constantly protect airplanes began sliding away. “No plane, anywhere, is safe from its enemies.”
“That’s about right,” he said. And neither of us mentioned our airline tickets, already purchased, for flights over Europe. When you lose your innocence it’s a hard thing to talk about.
Suddenly Pandora’s Box is once again wide open. (For just a second, there, I felt like dropping an atomic bomb on Russia.)