Friday, April 1, 2016

Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 79

“Dark Chambers”

Vaporization of human tissues is hard to imagine, even for combat-hardened veterans and emergency first responders.

After centuries of reliance on low-grade black powder for musketry and firecrackers, the era of high-grade explosives began with the invention of dynamite by Alfred Nobel in 1867 (below, based on nitroglycerine). Nobel bequeathed his fortune to an eponymous prize, after reading a premature obituary condemning him as an arms dealer.

Other deadly innovations followed.

When a solid or liquid is rapidly converted to a gas, the sudden release of energy is either a flash (deflagration) or a bang (explosion), or both. Detonation of a high-grade explosive produces a supersonic ignition and blast wave – the resulting noise is a localized sonic boom.

The pressure released by a blast creates shock waves (below) that instantaneously exceed atmospheric pressure (over-pressure).  The shear force between propagating wave peaks is highly destructive, as is the subsequent spalling which sheds small fragments internally from the impact surface, even without physical penetration.

The most common cause of American military casualties treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center since 2006 was blast injuries from improvised explosive devices (IED’s) in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the modern terrorism era, high-grade explosives have frequently been used in domestic attacks on non-combatants. 

The sad long list grows every year:
·  1995 Alfred Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City (ammonium nitrate),
·  7/7/2005 London Underground attack (tri-acetone tri-peroxide, TATP),
·  Patriot’s Day 2013 Boston Marathon finish line IED’s (below, made from a pressure cooker with a blasting cap).

Miraculously, nineteen year-old Mormon missionary Mason Wells (below) escaped unscathed from the Boston Marathon bombing and the ISIS-inspired Nov. 13, 2015 Paris attack, only to fall victim to the March 22, 2016 bombing at the Brussels airport. A terrorist detonated his TATP device less than 50 feet away from Wells, who recounted, “My body got really hot and then really cold... I was covered in a lot of fluids, a lot of blood – not necessarily mine.” 

Casualties of such bombs are characterized by three concentric blast zones: the epicenter (kill zone), the secondary perimeter (critical casualty zone) and the periphery (walking wounded zone). The human destruction associated with the addition of nails, screws (below) and ball bearings to the explosive device causes carnage beyond belief, by intent.

The capacity to launch a shell at an enemy position miles away, to dig an IED into a roadside and detonate it, or even to drop a bomb from an airplane into a civilian neighborhood pales in comparison to the up-close and personal nature of a suicide bomber attack on a public gathering place – a so-called soft target.

Like many of you, I have ridden on a double-decker bus through the streets of London (above) and strolled the streets of Paris. Like some of you, I have run across the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Like a very few of you, I flew into Oklahoma City the day the Murrah building (below) was destroyed, seeing dense black smoke rise from downtown as we landed.

Terrorists are not warriors. They inflict fear among the peaceful masses, by murdering an unlucky few.

In the words of veteran Iraq war correspondence, Michael Ware (above), “Certain dark chambers of the heart, once opened, can never be closed again.

A merciful God will grant Mason Wells amnesia regarding the cool liquid that drenched his burned skin – body fluids from an ISIS-inspired suicide bomber.
 “Allahu Akbar”… Really?

We in the Square continue to live with, and some of us will die from, this sad reality.

The main casualty of such brutality is humanity. 

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