“LET no more children fall victim to an atomic bombing.” – Children’s Peace Monument, Hiroshima, Japan.
“Based on their own experiences and carrying in their hearts the voices and feelings of those sacrificed to the bomb, the hibakusha called for a world without nuclear weapons as they struggled day by day to survive. In time, along with other Hiroshima residents and with generous assistance from Japan and around the world, they managed to bring their city back to life.” Peace Declaration, Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 2011
“Here and now, as we offer our heartfelt consolation to the souls of those sacrificed to the atomic bomb, we pledge to join forces with people the world over seeking the abolition of the absolute evil, nuclear weapons, and the realization of lasting world peace.”- Mayor Matsui Kazumi, City of Hiroshima, August 6, 2014.
Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the United States of America, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima at 8:15am, wiping out the entire city.
The United States, according to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial brochure, decided to drop the bomb on Japan to bring the long World War II to an end (started in 1939 and ended 1945, shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped).
An order was issued to bomb Nagasaki, Niigata, Kokura and Hiroshima. Hiroshima became a target, as it did not have an Allied prisoner-of-war camp.
On August 6, 2015, 55,000 folks attended the 70-year anniversary of the atomic bomb, and at 8:15am, moments of silence were observed.
Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima, addressed the crowds, where 100 countries’ representatives attended, including the US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.
Mayor Matsui advocated that the time is now, to take action on nuclear weapons disarmament.
We must seek cooperation from countries with nuclear weapons and from countries without nuclear weapons and “work towards a world without nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Shinz,” Abe said.
NHK World reported that nations with nuclear weapons have stockpiled 15,000 nuclear weapons around the world.
Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima, who was only 13 years old when she was mobilized to help in the military facility, has been traveling globally to talk about nuclear weapon disarmament.
“This is the nuclear age and it [nuclear weapons] is a universal problem. No human being should ever experience [what was experienced in Hiroshima] and the inhumane, immoral and cruel nuclear bomb. Children suffered from the cruel acts of adults.”
Why the interest in Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park?
I have had an interest to visit Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park, since I heard the stories of Carlo Delacruz, my unico hijo, when he was 11 years old. He visited Hiroshima, Japan, along with his classmates and teachers from Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. His stories stayed deep in my memory chambers, as they had both conveyed sadness, transformative hope and aspirations for humanity’s world peace. He described the tattered dress and a rusted bike.
I too visited Hiroshima, Japan with my classmate, Remedios Baclig.
The somber gray clouds accompanied heavy rains with strong winds, as we walked the perimeters of the Peace Memorial Museum.
It was as if the heavens poured out its sorrows and its blessings for the survivors of Hiroshima.
When the bomb hit Hiroshima, families died instantly. Some were riding the bus on their way to school, while other school children were demolishing buildings, to make room for fire lanes and air bomb shelters.
Others had seared flesh on their backs, torn limbs, missing body parts. Some developed leukemia and radiation diseases, including protruding black fingernails. Black rain poured down from the skies.
A total of 350,000 residents died, some of whom were South Koreans, Chinese and Americans. Few survived, while inside the basement of a rest house, now a souvenir shop.
NHK World reported on August 6, 2015 that today, 200,000 survivors live outside of Hiroshima, some with cardiac problems, and still others, with lingering skin diseases.
“The absolute evil that robbed children of loving families and dreams for the future, plunging their lives into turmoil, is not susceptible to threats and counter-threats, killing and being killed. Military force just gives rise to new cycles of hatred.” – Peace Declaration, August 6, 2014.
I went to the children’s memorial, where I rang the bell and said a prayer for all 6,000 young boys and girls who were gone too soon, robbed of their tomorrows.
In the 2014 Peace Declaration, a 12-year-old boy in junior high said, “Even now, I carry the scars of war and the atomic bombing on my body and in my heart. Nearly all my classmates were killed instantly. My heart is tortured by guilt when I think how badly they wanted to live and that I was the only one who did. Having somehow survived, hibakusha still suffer from severe physical and emotional wounds.”
At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, I publicly shed tears, along with others from other parts of the world, who viewed the museum artifacts, aka cultural properties: a toddler’s torn pink sundress, a rusted tricycle, a bombed-out helmet, a frayed canvas bag, eyeglasses with a broken eyepiece, bombed-out armoire, melted roof sheets, and paper cranes folded by Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to the A-bomb when she was 2 years old.
Ten years later, Sadako was hospitalized at Red Cross Hospital for leukemia. At the hospital, she learned of a 5-year-old girl who died from leukemia. She wondered if she too would have the same fate. A thousand paper cranes folded by school students in Nagoya were delivered to her hospital to uplift her spirit.
When she received them and heard about the legend, “fold 1000 paper cranes and your wish will come true,” Sadako kept up with folding paper cranes. “Let me get well,” and with each paper crane, her desire to live and prayers were folded in. After an eight-month hospitalization, she died.
Her classmates decided to memorialize her and other children who perished. Their efforts spawned a movement and over 3,000 schools around Japan sent money and letters, saying, “Please use this to help build the monument.”
Do you know that Hiroshima still receives about 10 million folded cranes each year? Because of that sheer volume, paper shreds from those cranes are incorporated in souvenir cards given to Museum Visitors, where they can write about their experiences in seeing the exhibit and then, mail to their loved ones from that site?
“Let no more children fall victim to atomic bombing.” And perhaps, we can update their wish to our world’s aspiration, “Let no more families fall victims to nuclear bombings. Let there be worldwide peace.”
Japan, once a colonial empire builder and an aggressor of WWII, is now a global peacemaker.
The Little Boy in Los Angeles
Janet Rodriguez Nepales and I were at the film premiere of “The Little Boy” on April 14, 2015 at LA Live’s Regal Cinema in Los Angeles, when the horror of Hiroshima was re-lived for me. The film showed cultural artifacts from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial: a red globe (bomb initiator) on scorched-city concrete debris, with statues of families burnt to death, the bomb code-named Little Boy.
“The Little Boy” is a film about a young boy’s resolves to bring back his father, a US soldier who fought World War II in the Philippines. The little boy’s faith was activated and strengthened by doing acts of mercy: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, burying the dead, including befriending Hashimoto, a Japanese-American, who bore America’s prejudices of that WWII period. The film beautifully chronicles how the biased prejudices of diseased minds can be changed by immersion in another person’s life, curiosity, and sharing a genuine friendship. The film garnered an enduring applause and bravos from the Los Angeles’ audience.
The world has a choice: annihilation or sustained love for peace?
Must we become war orphans of nuclear bombs and lost tomorrows or should we build friends around the world, promoting the love for life and peace?
Mayor Matsui Kazumi wrote: “We will do our best. Mayors for Peace, now with over 6,200 member cities, [we] will work through lead cities representing us in their parts of the world. We will steadfastly promote the new movement stressing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and seeking to outlaw them. We will help strengthen international public demand for the start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention with the goal of total abolition by 2020. Japan is the only A-bombed nation. Precisely because our security situation is increasingly severe, our government should accept the full weight of the fact that we have avoided war for 69 years thanks to the noble pacifism of the Japanese Constitution.”
Everyone can be a Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor), experiencing the total devastation of their communities through nuclear weapons. We are all vulnerable, unless we truly accept our legacy of life and love for peace and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
We can do what these survivors are imploring us to do, to put an end to stockpiling or manufacturing nuclear weapons.
We have that capacity right now to ratify the Iran’s nuclear weapons permanent abatement deal, secured by Secretary of State’s John Kerry and US President Barack Obama.
The question remains, will the US’ House of Congress and Senate heed the call for world peace, coming from Hiroshima?
Folded cranes are symbols of peace and we would rather continue sending these to Hiroshima, Japan, than be the scooped-up dust on the grounds of scorched-earth cities around the world, that once before, we called home. Nuclear disarmament is our world’s universal problem and it is in our capacity to make sustained peace by working harder for peace, rather than our triggered, default action toward wars.
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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for Asian Journal Press for 8 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in the field of science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium and Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.