(Grade school chalk board; I suspect the inscription was added for effect by some explorer) (Google map)
(infant shoe; infant gas mask)
When the reactor exploded, it took the authorities a day or two to figure out
what to do. After that, buses and trucks were levied, everyone was told to"grab what you need to be away for a day or two" and everyone was
evacuated. Nobody came back. There are infant gas masks like this
all over the place; it's as if they planned to issue them to the kids but then
realized that they actually wouldn't do anything but make people more scared and more miserable.
(Gas masks, the high school)
When I was a kid we were in the middle/late cold war and I remember being taught that if there was a nuclear war we were all going to hide under our desks to protect ourselves from the flying glass of the explosions. How utterly fruitless that would have been! I guess it would have meant that the ruins would have not been cluttered with bodies; they'd have all been tucked under desks, out of the way. This makes me think a lot about emergency and preparedness, and how incompetently the US Government responded to Hurricane Katrina.
If you ever want to make someone who understands disaster preparedness blanch, ask them "what is the evacuation plan for Los Angeles if there is a tsunami detected?" How do you fit 12 million people out of a city that big when there are 3 main highway axes leading out of town? You don't. Pripyat was relatively small, at 10,000 people and I sort of feel like tipping my hat to whoever comarade commander was who tried to coordinate the evacuation: at least they had gas masks. They tried . And, in general, most of the people in Pripyat were all right.
(High school gym)
(I couldn't find the date on this initially so I just shot a picture of it and moved on. It
appears to have been from 1990; left by some explorer.)
(Why high heels are bad; High school media room)
We end the day by climbing a 16-story apartment block at the edge of town, and get
access to the roof. As we start up the stairs Paul and Arekadiusz are in the lead, and
the sound of their feet rapidly receeds into the distance. I proceed at a more leisurely pace, since this doesn't look like a very good place to have my first heart attack. After about 5 floors I yell, "ARE WE THERE YET?" And Paul yells down, "ALMOST!" Another 5 floors, "ARE WE THERE YET?" and Paul yells down, "I'M ALREADY AT THE TOP!" and everyone laughs. By the 10th floor my legs are burning and I'm glad I left my pack at the van, "ARE WE THERE YET?" and Paul yells, "ARE YOU KIDDING? I'VE STARTED BACK DOWN!" Finally we all get to the top and the view is - interesting.
In the photograph above, the reactor looks like it's a long way away but with the eye's auto-zoom, auto-focus it looks much closer. It's about 1.25 miles from the city; people at the top of the buildings must have been able to see the plume of (radioactive) smoke from the fire.
Paul has read somewhere on the internet that there's a mummified dead dog in one of the rooms of the topmost floor so we head down to look for it. (I'm thinking it might be possible to bury it) No sign of any dog, though we explore and find the usual great piles of clutter. Passing by the elevator I notice the doors are open and gingerly look down the shaft: bottomless plunge-hole. Providentally, at my feet there is a large wrench for the nearby firehose. "Hssst!" I get Paul's attention and let the wrench fall down the elevator-shaft. 1... 2... 3BAM! That was pretty cool. We explore some more and I notice a porcelain sink that has detached from the wall. It's not very heavy. Paul and I simultaneously get the same idea and try to prevent the suicidal sink from pitching itself down the elevator-shaft. It makes an insane sound and then Paul says, "I sure hope Sergey hadn't decided to explore the building and wasn't taking a look up the elevator just now..." That sobers us up and we walk back down in silence. As we pass the open elevator doors in the lobby, there's a spray
of porcelain chunks across the floor.
(Cafe Pripyat, a trendy dining establishment on the edge of town) (Google map)
We head back for dinner at the canteen and sleep.