#tbt Nuclear Fears: Then and Now

Author: Peter Baltes

#tbt Nuclear Fears: Then and Now

In 1984, the world was still gripped by the Cold War. Harsh rhetoric flew back and forth between Washington and Moscow, and fears of nuclear Armageddon would not have been misplaced. This sort of anxiety is present in the April edition of Scholastic from that year, which includes a serious article entitled, bluntly, “The Effects of a Nuclear Detonation on the Campus of the University of Notre Dame.” 

The Berlin Wall may have fallen 29 years ago and the USSR may be a relic of the past, but the threat of nuclear confrontation remains uncomfortably relevant today.

While the article was intended as a purely speculative exercise, the writer, Dominic G. Gabaldon, made the unpleasant point that the scenario he was describing was not completely far-fetched. “We could never imagine a Notre Dame being brought to its knees by some force, for as a force, Notre Dame itself is one of the more powerful in our minds,” he wrote. “But a nuclear weapon is just the thing that brings the mightiest of places down.”

The piece further contained accounts of the damage that could occur, illustrated especially by a detailed description of the imagined structural fate of the architecture building, Bond Hall.

Given the recent and continuing nuclear posturing between the United States and North Korea, the possibility, however small, that these terrible weapons might still be used one day has unfortunately not yet abated. 

Thinking about nuclear warheads and the dangers they pose is far from enjoyable. Nevertheless, they still remain a problem that vexes Notre Dame students and the nation as a whole, and the issue of their eradication will be regrettably as urgent and pressing a problem today as it was in April 1984.