August 7, 2007
“One woman was carrying a baby. The baby had no head.” That was the memory of a 10-year-old girl in Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. As she wandered through the lunar landscape with her sister, looking for their parents, she spotted two charred figures. The eyes had melted out of each person. One had a gold tooth…just like her mother. Now in her 70s, she said: “We reached out and said ‘Mommy.’ Before our eyes, it crumbled into ash.”
Another man remembers that “the only thing that moved in Hiroshima were the flies circling over the dead.” Those are some of the recollections of Hiroshima survivors recounted in a new HBO documentary, White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which began airing yesterday on the 62nd anniversary of Hiroshima. It’s the first U.S. production dealing with Hiroshima and its aftermath. About 200,000 “hibakusha,” or people exposed to the bomb, are still living. Some were interviewed for the documentary, and a heartbreaking slide show of paintings created by the survivors and illustrating the aftermath of the bombings can be viewed here.
One of the “lucky” survivors that day was Sadako Sasaki, seen above. She was only two years and lived about a mile from ground zero when “Little Boy,” as the atom bomb was nicknamed, was dropped on Hiroshima. Sadako is seen here in 1955 at age 12, the year she died.
She came down with a cold in November 1954 and in February 1955, was diagnosed with leukemia, “the atom bomb disease.” While in the hospital in August, she saw 1,000 origami (folded paper) cranes which had been donated to the hospital by the people of Nayoga as a “get well” gift. She remembered the Japanese saying that a person who folded 1,000 cranes would be granted a wish. Her wish was that she’d be able to run again. By the time she died two months later, Sadako had folded 1,300 cranes. Paper was in short supply but Sadako was resourceful; she used medicine wrappers and asked other patients for wrapping paper from their presents.
A statue of Sadako holding a golden crane is at Hiroshima’s Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima Peace Park, where thousands gather every year on 6 August to memorialize the anniversary of the atomic bombing. Children made a wish which was inscribed at the statue’s base. It reads: “ This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.” Since the peace monument was unveiled in 1958, thousands of paper cranes have been sent from all over the world to Sadako’s memorial; the paper crane has come to symbolize international prayers for peace. Learn how to send your own crane and prayer for peace to Peace Park.
As he flew away after the bombing in the Enola Gay, the plane which had dropped “Little Boy,” Captain Robert Lewis asked: “My God, what have we done?” What he and the other crew members had succeeded in doing was killing an estimated 140,000 people. Some died instantly, while others took a few months to die. Some, like Sadako, lingered for years. Three days later, when the U.S. dropped “Fat Man,” a plutonium bomb, on Nagasaki, an additional 80,000 were killed. Japan surrendered nine days later.
Today’s worldwide arsenal of nuclear weapons is capable of repeating Hiroshima’s destruction 400,000 times.
Read about another quest for nuclear arms.
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