Atomic bombing. What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that?
World War Two. Death. Justification that the A-bomb ended the war and saved more people than it killed?
Today was the day of the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony. Held annually, the Peace Ceremony commemorates the atomic bombing that happened 68 years ago. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and representatives from several countries including America attended this event. Broadcasted nationwide, the Peace Ceremony is limited to only those invited. While our whole JASC was unable to go, we had 2 representatives from each side attend as well as our 2 chairs. In total 6 people got to attend the ceremony. The people that got to go definitely deserved it. Some of them have personal stories about how the A-bomb had effected their lives, or some of them have watched the event every year and felt that it was where they belonged. Either way, the rest of us watched the Peace Ceremony on screen in a big hall/stage about 10 minutes away from the actual event.
The event, exactly like the itinerary planned, happened like this:
10:35 Chorus by A-bomb Survivors - Just knowing about what they had to go through and then hearing their strong powerful voice altogether, my throat constricted and my heart became heavy. At this moment, I realized that no longer will I be able to go back to measuring the damage the A-bomb has done to just the lives that were lost on that day during World War 2. I will explain in much detail my feelings and opinions at the end of this day's blog.
10:40 Laying to rest of the list of victims who died this past year
10:42 Opening Words
10:46 Water Offering - To all the victims in the last moment of their lives who cried out begging for water
10:48 Flower Offering - Where representatives from different countries offered their acknowledgements
11:02 Silent Prayer - Exact moment when the bomb exploded. All it took was 3 seconds to destroy everything.
11:03 Nagasaki Peace Declaration - "Humankind invented and produced this cruel weapon. Humankind has even gone so far as using nuclear weapons on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Humankind has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests, contaminating the earth. HUmankind has commited a great many mistakes. This is why we must on occasion reaffirm the pledges we have made in the past that must not be forgotten and start anew." - Mayor of Nagasaki Tomihisa Taue (Who we all got to meet the next day when he graced us with his presence at our JASC reception)
As much as American's braced themselves for incoming hatred and blame, the Peace Ceremony shows no trace of that at all. Humankind, peace, starting anew. It touched my heart to know that the Peace Ceremony is less about struggling with the past and more about creating a future.
11:13 Pledge for Peace - So much desire for peace. How devastating must the bombs have been...
11:18 Children's Chorus - The young generation being involved showed the desire for this tradition and history to be kept alive.
11:38 Chorus "A Thousand Paper Cranes" - A thousand paper cranes symbolizes peace. Hand folded and attached together, I felt that these cranes showed the diligence and patience the Japanese have showed to the world of the nuclear arms race.
11:43 Closing Words
After the Peace Ceremony we attended the Nagasaki A-bomb museum. Several items that were effected by the bomb were displayed. I saw glass embedded into cement staircases. I saw glass bottles that melded together in mid-air. I saw a metal bridge bent to a point where I couldn't even tell it was a bridge. I saw coins that all melted together. All of this, which I couldn't believe happened in just 3 seconds.
Of course. That is not all that I saw. A fair warning that this paragraph might make you feel uncomfortable. I saw the shadow of a ladder and a man traced onto a wall, where they once stood by but entirely vanished. I saw, a mother and her child scorched entirely black. I saw, a man with half his face burned to a point where all you see is raw red meat. I saw, a "nurse" cutting peeled skin off a man's back. I saw a young boy who had a dead baby strapped to his back, waiting in line without tears, so that the baby could be cremated or burned. I saw the aftermath of people crying in agony for help and water, of people suffering from flashburns, of people grieving for family, of people covered in blood from debris thrown at them like the glass thrown at the cement staircase, of people who had experienced hell.
Every picture, every story, every artifact, pieced together in my head and at once I was a confused lone observer in the middle of the anguish and chaos. I saw myself stand in the center of the city, and looking at all that had died and been destroyed. Even as I write this, how can I not cry in sympathy to the pain?
In 3 seconds, the world they knew disappeared. Everything they loved disappeared. Everything.
If the museum was not enough, a storyteller (Yoshiro Yamawaki) came and told of us his personal experience in the A-bomb. In summary, the day the bomb dropped, his mother and his little sisters and brothers were safe because they have already evacuated to another city. His father was at work right near where the bomb was dropped, and the storyteller was at home while his brother was working near home. The storyteller and his brother were safe because they were indoors and safe from the flash burn that would have certainly peeled their skin away. However, they waited for their father and when he didn't come home, they decided to go look for him at his work. At that time they had no idea what happened and how close their father had been to the bomb, so they still held hope that he was alive. On their way they saw many gut wrenching scenes and when they finally arrived to their father's worksite they were told that his father was "over there". When they saw their father they realized that he was dead. They didn't know what to do at that point but to try and cremate/burn their father's body. They put the body in the flames and decided to head home and come back the next day. When they came back, they realized that the fire did little to cremate but instead burned the body into an even more gruesome sight. The brothers decided that perhaps they could take the head and bury it to put the soul to peace. When they tried to take the head however, the brains spilled out and the brothers ran away scared out of their minds. They never told the story to their mother of siblings.
On this day, I realized how little I knew about nuclear bombing and its effects on Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Japan. In high school history class I was taught about the facts of the bomb. The atomic bomb killed less people than the air bombing in Tokyo. The atomic bomb ended the war. The atomic bomb saved more people from dying. When given a chance to debate, it was almost to easy to justify dropping the bomb. I learned today however, the atomic bomb isn't just a part of history and facts, but it is also a part of the present culture of Japan.
We think that the bomb lasted 3 seconds and once over that was where the majority of all the damage was done. Cancer hit the strongest 90 days after the bombing. Even the people not present at the bombing, family members and relief helpers who went to Nagaski and Hiroshima to help were exposed to radiation. Can you imagine thinking you have survived the bombing only to walk into cancer and death from radiation? The children of those that had been exposed to radiation were discriminated against, because little was known about radiation and nobody wanted to catch the disease. People didn't just vanish and disappear in 3 seconds, they suffered for their whole life traumatized by the scene of destruction.
Debating about whether or not we should have nuclear bombs is not my purpose. But rather, I wish that in America we were taught more fully of what we did to Japan. I wish that we paid tribute and condolences to what had happened there. I wish we knew exactly what had happened and learned more thoroughly about the pain and traumatization and immensity of the atomic bomb. I wish at least, we were taught that no matter how justified the bombing was, we would close our eyes and give a silent prayer to all those that suffered.