An encounter with a survivor of the Hiroshima attack and with others at a most moving memorial to the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings.
:::::::: 6 August 2006: Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial
Back in 2006, before I began to write for Opednews, I observed the most moving memorial of my life, to the victims of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, including a firsthand account from a survivor who had been less than a kilometer away from the epicenter of the explosion at Hiroshima. I can think of nothing more appropriate to contribute today than this experience.
The Coalition for Peace Action sponsored a Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorial this evening to commemorate the bombings on August 6 and 9, 1945. around the fountain in front of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School (Robertson Hall), A large group, including 150 Japanese and American students attending the High School Diplomats program held every summer at Princeton University, was regaled by various forms of musical entertainment as well as words about nuclear weaponry from three different speakers.
Before any of the speeches, however, there was a minute of silence at the exact moment sixty-one years ago when Hiroshima was struck: 8:15 in the morning, 7:15 pm our time.
Then Mr. Yoshio Sato, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, addressed the group, sharing with us the experience of being within one kilometer of the epicenter of the nuclear attack. He said he regained consciousness after the explosion stuck in a piece of lumber--all the homes in his city were made of wood and were burned to the ground. The sky was dark. The 14-year-old Mr. Sato rescued his mother, brother and sister, who had been pinned under their house. His father was out of town on business.
A strong wind blew. They were surrounded by fire and kept immersing themselves in water. Rescuers came in the evening with a truck that carried many who were badly burned and had not yet received treatment. They were taken to an army barracks where Mr. Sato's father found his family. Still no treatment was offered to the wounded- one boy's bones were exposed from his cheeks to his ears and he was nearly blind. Another woman naked, refusing any clothing, sat holding her dead baby in shock.
He spoke of hair loss to the point of near baldness; how he and his mother and siblings began to run fevers; his mother died on September 2 of the same year. He and his siblings seemed to recover, though his sister died six months later. His brother grew up to become a physician who later died of liver cancer. Mr. Sato himself had half his stomach removed in 1971--his brother told him he had cancer.
He said that now he was alone and "we must reject war."
Next to speak was the Pakistani physicist Dr. Pervez Hoodboy, a member of the Nobel-prize-winning Council of Pugwash--scientists who champion nuclear disarmament.
"The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is in shambles," he told us. He had visited Hiroshima last year on its sixtieth anniversary, where in the museum he saw a shadow burned into stone of someone who had been sitting at ground zero when the bomb struck.
He named the countries that already have nuclear armaments and those who are working toward them; the irony that the Bush government gave WMD as its pretense for invading Iraq, which they knew had none--were this pretense valid they would have instead invaded North Korea.
"It's easy to make nukes today," he continued. The recipe is on the Internet. "All you need are fissionable materials: uranium and plutonium."
He decried our "tribal" mentality, the "us versus them" mindset of the apes. He witnessed people in other parts of the world rejoicing when 9/11 occurred.
"We all want the same things. Our differences are trivial. Why do we want to kill each other all the time?"
Today nukes are no longer weapons of last resort but for regular use. George Bush the elder advocated for the development of new varieties of "the bomb," including bunker busters and fusion bombs.
What can we do about all of this?
We must ban nuclear weaponry. All nuclear development must stop.
We must enforce the NPT and strengthen it.
"Nationalism and religion are the curse of our times when they divide us. We are all citizens of this planet."
Next to speak was a student from Nagasaki, Yuri, who spoke of the idea three years ago to collect ten thousand signatures from high school students in opposition to nuclear warfare. By last year, he and his colleagues had collected over ninety thousand signatures. He will address Kofi Annan in Switzerland as a peace messenger bearing these signatures (we were allowed to sign their petitions this evening), and as a third-generation descendant of a Nagasaki survivor. Not that he heard painful reminiscences within his own family--a cousin died of leukemia--but from other survivors.
Yuri became a peace activist in high school. He said that nuclear weaponry continues to multiply; today there are seventy-three thousand in the world, with Russia holding the most, followed by the United States.
"These weapons must never be used," he concluded. "We pledge to work for a peaceful world."
We floated candles onto the waters of the stilled fountain. Meant to fill the space, they remained on the periphery. I looked around at the Japanese and Americans chatting easily and wondered what my place was at that moment. I am on the steering committee after all and had supped with Mr. Sato, his translator, Bob Moore, and another board member. We had sushi and rice crackers. I had asked the interpreter what she thought of our version of Japanese food and she had said, "It's ok" dismissively.
And now? Wouldn't the right thing be to thank Mr. Sato for his amazing words? He had spoken to so many of us individually. I went up to him, began my formulaic greeting, and he took my hand and looked deeply into me. I thanked him for his very memorable words. I said I would tell everyone I knew what he said. Then I remembered how to say thank-you in Chinese. Wrong language. Then I remembered how to say it in Japanese. "Arigato," I smiled. He repeated the word. He really meant it. Suddenly I knew what to do next. I bowed the way I had seen the Japanese people bowing to each other this evening.
I limped away (I have a broken toe) into the darkness. I realized how much I had experienced with that handshake--the epicenter of Hiroshima sixty-one years ago. It was overwhelming. What he gave, a man who had lost everything.
Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for Opednews.com since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, 2000-2008" (Columbus, Free Press) and a member of the Election Integrity movement since 2001. Her original website, WordsUnLtd.com, first entered the blogosphere in 2003. She recently became a senior editor for Opednews.com. She has in the past taught college and worked as a full-time as well as freelance reporter. She has been a peace and election integrity activist since 1999. Her undergraduate and graduate educational background are in Spanish, classical philology, and historical and comparative linguistics. Her biography is most recently listed in "Who's Who in America" 2019 and in 2018 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who.