Duck and Cover to Drum and Chant

I grew up at a time when ‘duck and cover’ was a drill routine that we did in school to prepare for nuclear war. Bomb shelters were advertised in local newspapers. All this was part of an absurd belief that the world might be habitable after Russia and the US hurled nuclear bombs at each other.

I assumed that we would all be destroyed before I reached adulthood. For me, the threat of nuclear annihilation has always been an extremely personal and emotional issue.

Read more about Ploughshares Fund's efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I have decided to participate in the Interfaith Peace Walk for a Nuclear Free Future from July 27th to August 9th. I’ll be drumming and chanting with a pair of Buddhist monks as we walk about 210 miles through various northwest cities.

It’s a labor of love for something I truly believe in: a future free from the severe damage to our health and environment caused by exposure to nuclear radiation and the threat of annihilation overall.

I have been involved with Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) since 2001. WAND has its origins in the nuclear disarmament movement. In fact, that used to be our name, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament

Even though I’ve lived in Oregon since 1973, until my involvement with WAND, I knew little about Hanford Nuclear Site, located on the banks of the Columbia. There are many in the Northwest who are totally unaware of Hanford or its status as the most contaminated site in this half of the globe.

As a member of WAND, I have learned far more about our nuclear arsenal and industry, its enormous cost and the lethal legacy of production. Hanford brings geographic immediacy to this knowledge. Recent news articles indicate the increasing dangers of leaking tanks, nitrogen build-up and the stalled and over-budget effort to build a vitrification plant as the long-touted solution to this toxic dump.

In addition to knowledge gained through WAND, there are two connections that have tugged on my heart in that same personal and emotional way. I have become friends with Pat Hoover, a Hanford Downwinder, and learned of the life threatening impact of the food she ate, the air she breathed and the river she swam in as a child living in the shadow of Hanford.

It was just a little over a year ago that I learned my nephew in Seattle was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, a disease associated with nuclear radiation from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

As I walk this summer, I will blog about my experience. Each day I plan to highlight a particular organization or individual and the work they do striving for peace and a nuclear free world. Ploughshares Fund is one of those impressive organizations and that is why I will dedicate my walk on August 2nd to it.

You can follow me on this journey and help me get the word out to as many others as possible! Bookmark the Oregon WAND blog, check it every day and leave comments. Share it with your friends.

The total absurdity of those duck and cover drills is clear some 60 years later. Let's commit to more meaningful ways to respond to this nuclear legacy.

Susan Cundiff is an activist and member of Oregon WAND. She is undertaking a 210 mile Peace Walk to raise awareness on nuclear weapons and that Hanford Nuclear Site. The views expressed in this blog are her own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Ploughshares Fund.