There was an outpouring of concern and prayers today for the "Fukushmima 50," the band of volunteer workers who have stayed behind at Japan's crippled nuclear reactors to try prevent a catastrophe for the country.
"My dad went to the Nuclear Plant. I never heard my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you. Please dad come back alive," read a tweet by Twitter user @nekkonekonyaa.
"My husband is working knowing he could be radiated," said one woman. He told her via email, "Please continue to live well. I cannot be home for awhile."
An email from the daughter of a Fukushima 50 volunteered was shared on national television and said, "My father is still working at the plant -- they are running out of food…we think conditions are really tough. He says he's accepted his fate…much like a death sentence…"
The nearly 200 workers are rotated in and out of the danger zone in groups of 50, taking turns eating and sleeping in a decontaminated area about the size of an average living room.
"They are probably drinking cold water and eating military style packages," said Michael Friedlander, who worked in crisis management at similar American nuclear plants. "It's cold, it's dark, and you're doing that while trying to make sure you're not contaminating yourself while you're eating."
Their mission is called "feed and bleed." They feed seawater onto the reactor to keep it cool, while steam bleeds away the heat.
These workers are aware that their lives are on the line, but they're equally aware of what is at stake.
"I can tell you with 100 percent certainty they are absolutely committed to doing whatever is humanly necessary to make these plants in safe condition, even at the risk of their own lives," said Friedlander.
Helicopter pilots are also risking their health, flying into high radiation levels to dump cooling water on the reactors and give back up to the emergency workers in the plant.
But what will really help the workers is a new power line, which one nuclear expert called the "white knight" these men are waiting for.
A 27-year-old woman whose Twitter name is @NamicoAoto tweeted earlier this week that her father had volunteered for Fukushima duty.
"I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and I my eyes are filling up with tears... At home, he doesn't seem like someone who could handle big jobs...but today, I was really proud of him. And I pray for his safe return," she wrote.
An admirer of the Fukushima crew tweeted, "Whatever's the closest int'l equivalent to the Medal of Honor - Nobel Peace Prize? -- The Fukushima 50 deserve that, and more," he wrote.
They are working as temperatures at the plants soar to nerve menacing levels, radiation is leaking, rain and snow may be carrying it down upon them, and a toxic fire burns, likely spewing more radiation into the atmosphere.
There is little information about who actually stayed behind, but nuclear experts say the skeleton crew is likely made up not of managers, but of technicians, men who have the schematics of the plant in their head and can fix pipes and unclog vents.
They've gone into battle, crawling at times through dark mazes, armed with flashlights and radiation detectors, wearing full body hazmat suits and breathing through cumbersome oxygen tanks.