Veronica Roberts

The Vertus Hardiman story: Where Horror and Heroism co-habited.

I sat frozen for a while. Then the tears started to fall, I wanted to scream out loud, All my pain and buried demons rose to the surface in a crescendo of pain, shock, anger, sadness, horror. I couldn't believe what I just saw.

I had clicked on a video shared by one of my Facebook friends. Just out of curiosity. What I saw threw me for a loop. I wasn't prepared for the abject horror.

He was an 85 year old African-American man, born into the deep institutional racism of the South. Born into a time where he was thought of as less than, not worthy of the same inalienable rights as 'Whites.'

Where he was just a "guinea pig"-- the 'right specimen to be used. It was like looking at my Dad sitting there, calmly recounting how he and 9 other children were medically experimented on at the tender age of five. Not only was he experimented on but the radiation exposure left him with an oozing, gaping hole in his head.

While attending Lyles Consolidated School in 1927, he and his 9 classmates were experimented on under the guise of the treatments being a cure for the head fungus ringworm. The local County hospital used that ruse to get unsuspecting parents consent to conduct the diabolical experiments.

This is the stuff of which horror fiction is made but he lived it for 80 years, hiding this monstrous results from the public, while managing to grow up, graduate from high school with honors and leave the South to explore his options elsewhere.

He worked with the County of Los Angeles Hospital for 40 years where he was an exemplary worker, with a perfect attendance record. All this with the hole still in his head.

His name was Vertus Hardiman, born on March 9, 1922 in Lyles Station, Indiana which was one of the first African American settlements after slavery and was even known as "Freedom Village." His life is a testament of both horror and heroism. For what he was subjected to as a child and his ability to forgive and triumph over his monumental adversities is nothing short of extraordinary.

He died June 1, 2007 without anger or bitterness towards this country or anyone. He was a staunch believer in God and had been a regular at the First AME Church of Pasadena, California, even sang in the choir.

We've all heard of Nazi Germany and the incredible evil unleashed there. How could they, we have all thought? But right here in the good ole U.S.A. we were whipping up a batch of unspeakable terror ourselves.

Click on the video tab above to see what I mean.