Building peace over pain

By Anu P James & Idikula Mathew

The names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are synonymous with the Atomic Bomb Disaster. This manmade disaster from an atom bomb left a deep scar on the humanity and history for us to remember and think.
In the context of continued hostilities during the World War II, “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” devastated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively on August 6 morning at 08:15 AM and August 9 forenoon at 11:02 AM August 1945. Nagasaki was not the primary target for the plutonium -239 weapon but, cloud covers over the industrial center Kokura, diverted the B29 Bockcsar bomber to proceed to the secondary target on list.
Detonation of the bombs about 600-500 m above the hypocenters on these cities released immense amounts of heat rays (3000~4000 degree Celsius) and radiation waves blasting away at about 440 meters per second. This ruined most portions of the city to shatters, charring many objects from the flash burn and killing many people and living creatures instantly. From August to December of 1945 itself, it is estimated about 2,20,000 lives were lost in these cities. Apart from the immediate effects, aftereffects such as keloid scars, leukemia and other forms of cancer have shortened several lives. Many more survivors started to live with the pain, trauma, loss and anxiety from these bombings.
However, today peace monuments stand tall at these locations, beaming hope, peace and love so that humanity can come together to prevent such tragedies from ever being repeated. From our experience at both these locations, we soon realised that when someone visits these monuments, certain images and deep messages they convey were preserved and kept open for all to see imbibing the need to choose wisely and act responsibly.
It is important for the people here in Hiroshima that the truth be told and conveyed in the spirit of the harmony and peaceful co-existence of future generations.
The peace museums display the impacts on victims through pictures and belongings. Charred rice from a schoolgirl’s lunch box, helmets with embedded skull, hand and finger bones fused into molten glass etc. are just a few of the images and objects depicting the utter despair and grief. These show that death caught these subjects completely unaware at a time and way they least imagined. Life was siphoned out of them within seconds.
The illustrations and pictures on the walls represents a ‘living hell’ showing people fleeing almost naked with their burned skins hanging, walking in pitiful conditions with severe injuries, people lying on ground just waiting for their deaths. Cities are compared side by side with before and after panoramas and how the nuclear age has evolved over time and various parties on the global front with their views on nuclear power and weaponisations are also depicted here.
All these embody grief, anger, pain and several emotions while provoking thought, hope, needs and above all the ability to choose wisely towards world peace and cultural exchanges onto a harmonious world. Things have changed drastically as these cities are now rebuilt. Areas around, considered devoid of and unusable for vegetation for at least 75 years are now green and teeming with the music of birds symbolizing renewal and hope.
The atomic bomb dome, close to the hypocenter stands exactly as it was left standing after the explosion. Previously an industrial promotion hall of the prefecture, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage monument. Its survival as the only building left standing near the hypocenter is a representation towards the symbol of peace and hope. Right at the center of the Hiroshima peace park is the Cenotaph holding the names of the people who were lost to the bomb. The arch shape represents a shelter for the souls of the victims.
“No one else should ever suffer as we have” – This heart rendering message from hibakusha (a Japanese word that literally translates to “explosion-affected people”) forged in a cauldron of suffering and sorrow transcends hatred and rejections. As a response to the hibakusha’s appeal the epitaph on the Cenotaph for the Atomic bomb victims read: “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil”.
Inspired by Sadako Sasaki’s dreams and hope before death at 12 years caused by the after effects of her exposure to radiation at the age of 2, the peace park includes a Children’s peace monument for the memory of all the little ones whose childhood and lives were cut short by the atomic bombing. On top of this 9-meter monument is a bronze statue of a girl lifting a golden crane entrusting us with a dream for a peaceful future. The inscription read: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world”.
The story of Sadako Sasaki is touching at the same time inspirational. Do not miss a chance to see her collection and pictures at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
At Nagasaki, the peace statue stands tall against the blue skies with the right hand pointing towards the threat from nuclear weapons and the left hand symbolizing the peace with closed eyes expressing prayers for the many victims of war.
Both at Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the heat wave from the blast raised surface temperatures to thousands of degrees, people suffered terrible burns and died seeking water. Several intense pictures show how humans and living beings crawled to the stream nearby and dead bodies were amassed and floating.
The fountains of peace is a place to pray for the victims who passed away begging for water. On the black stone plaque, it is carved from the lines of the poem from a girl named Sachiko Yamaguchi who was 9 years old at the time of bombing “I was thirsty beyond endurance. There was something oily on the surface of the water, but I wanted water so badly that I drank it just as it was.”
The ever-changing shape of water at these fountains evokes the beating wings of the dove of peace and the crane. The crane represents the Nagasaki port which is known as the crane port because of its shape. Also, in Japan cranes are considered mystical creature representing good fortune and longevity.
Flame from Mount Olympus in Greece taken in 1983 is kept burning until all nuclear weapons in the world will be abolished with a firm pledge that Nagasaki must be the last city to suffer from a nuclear bomb.
The scars left from the bombings were on body and mind of the people that many survivors feel guilty for surviving after going through various repeated surgeries and treatments. Greif of survivors and the stigma they have faced have been expressed through paintings and narratives. Various testimonies shared the profound magnitude of the horrors and pain.
As stated by Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizhuki, who was a survivor, “Concentric circle of death.. concentric circles of devil.. death seems literally fanning out in concentric circles with each passing day. The ripples of death that expanded from the hypocenter soon began to consume people who had suffered only mild injuries or who seems to have escaped unhurt”.
Every August, the tragic memory is revisited on its anniversary with memorial events and prayers for the departed and world peace. Thousands visit the peace parks to pay respect and pray along side. Lantern ceremonies with prayers and peace messages are sent off floating for the souls in the evening.
The message these cities give out to the world loud and clear is unfolded in the recent Nagasaki Peace declaration “The atomic bombs were built by human hands and exploded over human heads. It follows that nuclear weapons can be eliminated by an act of human will and that the source of that will is without question the mind of each human being. Let us continue to discuss our experiences of war and the atomic bombings and pass the information to future generations. Knowledge of the horrors of war is an important first step to peace. Leaders of the world visit the atomic bombed cities and see, hear and feel what happened under the mushroom cloud. Imprint in your minds the inhumanity of the nuclear weapons”.
Any visitor to these atomic bombed cities and these monuments come away with a strong message of nothing but peace and its importance. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings the salient prayer reverberates beyond borders ‘Let there be peace’!

(Anu P James is DFO,
East Khasi Hills. The article is based on the couple’s recent trip to Japan)

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Comments are closed.