Sunday, 13 March 2011

Memories of Hiroshima

I recently had the opportunity to take a school group to Hiroshima to visit Peace Park and to meet some of the actual survivors from the atomic bomb. It was an enlightening and humbling experience to stand only metres from the site of the hypocentre of the explosion and to hear, see and read accounts of that fateful day. In the centre of the city stands the ‘Atomic Bomb Dome’ with its ruins standing much as they did immediately following the devastation. It provides the most fitting memorial to the many thousands who horrifically lost their lives at 8.15am August 6 1945. Walking through nearby Peace Park you pass the Children Memorial where thousands of paper cranes pay tribute to Sadako, a little Japanese girl who became a victim of leukaemia as a result of her exposure to atomic radiation. Onward along the pathway you approach the arched Memorial Cenotaph that leads on to The Peace Memorial Museum. This impressive building houses many of the disfigured artefacts from that catastrophic time and graphically describes the historical background of the atomic bomb in the hope that such devastation will never be witnessed again. Certainly this was also the sentiment of Setsuko Morita, who graciously spoke to our students about her experience as a Hiroshima bomb victim. She was 13 at the time and despite being 1.7 kilometres from the hypocentre of the explosion was blown to the ground by its sheer force, receiving many severe burns. She recalled the blinding flash of white light and the indescribable horror of what she saw as she made her way through the streets. Her poignant account provided a very personal perspective to an historical event that I had only previously been able to visualise through old black and white photos and grainy film footage. The clarity and passion in which she spoke and her advocacy against the use of nuclear weapons was quite inspirational. Certainly this point of view continues to be echoed by many other survivors and citizens of Hiroshima. While the city today remains bustling and vibrant, clearly the memories of 1945 are never too far away.

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