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The shining

“It happened late Friday night. That morning no one suspected anything. I sent my son to school, my husband went to the barber’s. I was preparing lunch when my husband came back. ‘There’s some sort of fire at the atomic station. They’re saying we are not to turn off the radio.’ This wasn’t any ordinary fire, it was some kind of shining. It was pretty. I’d never seen anything like it in the movies. That evening everyone spilled out onto their balconies, and those who didn’t have balconies went to friends’ houses. We were on the ninth floor, we had a great view. People brought their kids out, picked them up, said: ‘Look! Remember!’ And these were people who worked at the reactor—engineers, laborers, physics instructors. They stood in the black dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. People came from all around in their cars and on their bikes to have a look. We didn’t know that death could be so beautiful.” – Nadezhda Petrovna Vygovskaya (from Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich, trans. Keith Gessen)

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