Illustration for Broken Arrows

Broken Arrows

The U.S. government uses the term Broken Arrows to refer to unexpected events involving nuclear weapons. Since the 1950s, there have been 32 cases of nuclear weapons that have either detonated on accident, launched unintentionally, or even been lost.

These are just the ones that the U.S. government has made public. With 9 countries in possession of nuclear weapons, it’s not hard to imagine there being dozens of missing nuclear weapons out in the wild.

It’s a bit unsettling to learn that there are world-ending nuclear warheads that are just missing. My initial instinct upon learning about Broken Arrows was to blame someone: the personnel for their carelessness, the military for its lack of foresight, the world for its unquenchable thirst for destruction.

I caught myself before I drowned in that thought. As mistakes go, losing a nuclear weapon is a really big one – but a mistake nonetheless. This got me to thinking about my own mistakes in life. What were my Broken Arrows?

Friendships lost, relationships imploded, projects abandoned. Some were made public; many were not. No, none of these were on the same order of magnitude as losing a nuclear warhead, but everything is relative.

Broken Arrows are shameful remnants left in our wake, small reminders of the fragility of our existence. At the same time, they're a reminder of our resilience. That despite the gravity of some mistakes, we move on, we grow, we forget.