In act two of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” Malvolio is reading a piece of prose which begins, “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great; some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Among the 75,000 people who were working in Oak Ridge when its role in bringing an end to the war was revealed, there was a man who, in that moment, felt the prescient weight of greatness thrust upon him.
Bill Wilcox wrote a letter to his parents in Pennsylvania on the day the Hiroshima bomb was dropped. Excerpts are captured in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City.” Assessing his life and his place in that moment of history Bill writes, “Never before has the knowledge of so vital a nature been entrusted to so many with so great a success…Never before in the history of the world has so much responsibility been placed on the shoulders of such young people.” The writing of this letter was the beginning of what would become a life vocation of helping us understand more clearly the reality of what happened in Oak Ridge. As a result, his influence will continue to trickle down in a thousand ways. [Read more…]