Second Life. We said yes, of course, and together with perhaps 20 other avatars we were soon teleported to a private sim called Chernobyl. It is not open to the public at the moment, but I can assure you that it was an experience.
Built by Ron McDowell/Maxwolf Goodliffe and partners at Magrathean, Chernobyl is more than a beautiful build. It is as faithful a copy as it can possibly be of something that few people have seen since that fateful April day in 1986. It is a great example of how important knowledge about a dangerous and life-changing event can be transferred and experienced in the physical safety of a digital world such as Second Life. It is also proof to the fact that SL is getting more and more interesting content, albeit not at the expense of form and design. Luckily.
This story has a certain personal twist however. When I was a teenager I was in a choir that toured around Europe every Spring. On Labour Day 1986 we were supposed to travel through Poland and Tchecoslovakia on our way to Hungary and a concert at Matyas Templom in Budapest. The Chernobyl catastrophe changed a few things. At a meeting the day before we left, we decided to take the ferry to Poland as planned (it was already paid for and we didn't have much choice) but then go straight through East Germany through to West Germany. I can still vividly remember the harsh treatment on the German borders, the protective clad guards standing around, viewing us suspiciously with Geiger counters and chemical showers to be used if the need arose. We were obviously okay and were allowed in. It was a strange journey in many ways, but definitely a memorable one.
It's almost 22 years ago now, but while I'm on the subject I would like to point to a wonderful account of Elena's very real journey into the dead zone of Chernobyl in 2004.