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The Sun Interview

Before We Leap

Carolyn Raffensperger On The Revolutionary Idea Of Putting Safety First

In the United States we’re all expected to be cowboys on some level. . . . We believe it’s neurotic and un-American not to take risks. . . . But along with this American love of pioneering and risk taking, we need sentinels watching for trouble and scouts out finding good and safe paths.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Some Shelter

There is a song I was taught in school during the 1950s titled “Duck and Cover.” It was supposed to help us remember what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. More importantly, it was supposed to convince us that there could be a safe place in a world at war. The atomic bomb would fall and we would duck and cover and it would be ok. There wasn’t a child in the room who didn’t know this was a baldfaced lie, the height of adult mendacity — as the older boys said, “Bullshit.”

Ancient History

I push the lawn mower across the grass, and memories of my dad fly up like little green blades:

Let’s start up that mower. You’ve got to prime the pump first. See that lever? It adjusts the wheels up and down. Don’t hit any rocks. Here, put these sunglasses on for protection. You don’t want something to fly up and hit you in the eye.

Distant Signals

Dad always gave elaborate instructions on how to use things. Most of Dad’s instructions were negative, as though the right way to do things would occur to one eventually if all the ways to do it wrong could be enumerated and cautioned against. The thing he was cautioning me about that day was the big radio–record player combo that had sat on a black wire stand in the living room, and now — mysteriously, wonderfully — sat in my room. It was brown and boxy, qualities that I associated with my mother in her heyday: all those photos of her in the muskrat coat with the Joan Crawford shoulders, the big hairdos like airplane fuselage.

Fiction

Mr. Jordan's Arrival

When I was a boy, we lived in a shotgun house — bright white paint, green shutters — on a little street near the Riverbend in New Orleans. The area is “improved” now. Tourists know it because of Cooter Brown’s, the Camellia Grill, and the streetcar line. But then it was very quiet, just average families like ours and the slow days by the river in the heat.

Baby Blood

Silas started the way all babies do: a divided cell, a spot of blood. Then, after all the work, the perils of miscarriage, the sickness and swelling, he was born too early, and I found that my precious boy had a bad heart. He needed blood and money and about a million years of good luck. You can’t predict this kind of thing; it’s the sort of perversity that makes a believer out of anyone, that focuses all those random thoughts into a single laser point of hope.

Readers Write

Safety

In late summer of 2001, I went on a five-day solo backpacking trip through the woods of northern Maine. The first two days I followed a well-traveled path along a river and slept in rustic bunkhouses with several other hikers. The next day, however, I was to climb the imposing Mount Katahdin by myself and spend the night in a lean-to near the summit. On the fourth day, I would reach the top, traverse the tablelands, and descend the other side, arriving at civilization in the form of Chimney Pond Campground.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

Myth: we have to save the earth. Frankly, the earth doesn’t need to be saved. Nature doesn’t give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment — making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so.

Robert M. Lilienfeld and William L. Rathje

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