Saturday, June 13, 2009
Several participants on the Journey of Repentance recommended that I read Hiroshima by John Hersey, and I recently had the opportunity to take their advice. Although I finished reading Hiroshima over a week ago, the images and vivid memories of the people interviewed remain burned in my thoughts.
Hersey begins on the morning of August 6th, 1945, when the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Nearly a hundred thousand people died from the blow, and another hundred thousand were injured and would experience both physical and social repercussions for years, some for a lifetime. The true stories of six hibakusha (explosion-affected persons) are told through their perspectives and reflections of others. Hersey guides us through the hours, days, months, and ultimately decades following the bombing, showing us through the eyes of a clerk, a physician, a mother, a German priest, a surgeon, and a Methodist Pastor what the true impact of atomic weapons can be.
What makes Hiroshima truly devastating is the tremendous difference between reading the facts and hearing of the heartbreak and devastation within everyday lives. Some of the most piercing stories told were not even the focus of the book, rather the people who these six hibakusha came into contact with during and after the bombing:
A diocesan secretary standing in the window of a mission house looking out over the destruction and weeping, then later running back into the fire; “Leave me here to die.”
The image of a woman with her breast sheared off, a man with a burned face, and a woman with a badly broken leg sharing a corrugated iron lean-to as black rain begins to fall on the city.
Reverend Tanimoto reminding himself that the bodies he rescues from the river, burned so badly that their skin comes off with his every attempt, are human beings.
But it is also a story of hope, as the victims of the first atomic bombing labor tirelessly to rebuild their lives, learn to heal and serve each other, and travel across the world sharing their stories with others to ensure that such suffering never occurs again.