5/22/11, WE ARE WITNESS — INSIDE THE RADIATION EXCLUSION ZONE
She lies on her side, eyes wide with fear. Her utter is inflamed and bones protrude. She is dying. We have hay for her, but it is too late. Once a cow is “down” organs compress against organs and slowly shut down. She breathes in ragged spurts and her body shakes. I kneel down to stroke her beautiful and bewildered face. My voice calms her, so I ask if she’d been a mother. “It’s okay, you can let go now. Please sleep, so it won’t hurt any more.” When I shift positions, the downed cow struggles to stand. Does she know my tears are for her? Does she know that in her final glimpse, she is not alone?
I am in Fukushima, Japan — inside the 20km radiation exclusion zone. I am where I am not supposed to be. I am a witness.
All cows in this barn had been stall confined until our local guide freed them during secret trips. The exclusion zone spans Futuba, Katsurao, Namie, Kuma, Tomioka…and segments of Minamisoma. We cannot imagine how many more have died like this cow. On weekends, the only time he can come, our guide brings hay. He parks some distance from the exclusion border to journey inside by foot or scooter. He lugs 30 liters of water. But it is not enough. One black and white cow is frozen over an empty water trough, her body twisted in its last pursuit of water. A dead bull rots on the ground. No one else has come to the aid of these animals…