Learning from the Hibakushas
“They were covered with blood and burned and blackened and swollen, and the flesh was hanging from the bones. Parts of their bodies were missing, and some were carrying their own eyeballs in their hands. And as they collapsed, their stomach burst open.”
But war is necessary, right?
The speaker, quoted recently on NPR, is 88-year-old Setsuko Thurlow, one of Planet Earth’s remaining hibakushas: survivors of the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She was in Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Since that day, she has devoted her life to the elimination of nuclear weapons — that is to say, to creating awareness. Everybody knows that war is hell, but hell is just an abstraction, easily shrugged off, unless you live through it.
Seventy-five years later, I hear the words of hibakushas and feel my soul plunge into emptiness. Why wasn’t twice enough?
From the Atomic Heritage Foundation:
“Nuclear fission begins in 0.15 microseconds with a single neutron, initiating a supercritical chain reaction that increases the temperature to several million degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the surface of the sun at the time the bomb casing blows apart.
“It is the peak of the morning rush hour in Hiroshima. Above the city, the fireball is rapidly expanding.
“.1 seconds: The fireball has expanded to one hundred feet in diameter combined with a temperature of 500,000°F. Neutrons and gamma rays reach the ground. The ionizing radiation is responsible for causing the majority of the radiological damage to all exposed humans, animals and other biological organisms.”
And again, why?
Another hibakusha, the writer Kyoko Hayashi, also a survivor of the Nagasaki blast (she died in 2017), wrote a story, H. Patricia Hynes informs us, in which she created a new calendar: the “A-bomb calendar.” The calendar designates 1945 as the world’s new Year One, because: “The significance of the birth of Christ or Buddha pales in comparison” to the birth of the nuclear era.