August 6, 1945. The people of Hiroshima experience the end of the world. The world ends for the Urakami Valley of Nagasaki on August 9. Since then, an increasing number of survivors have been telling their stories in a desperate effort to keep the human family from using the “new type of weapon” to off itself.
Telling one’s A-bomb story is no fun. It means recalling the tremendous pain of life-threatening burns, contusions, gashes, and radiation poisoning. Even worse is remembering the grief of losing a wife, husband, child or parent, or fleeing to save yourself knowing that a loved one is burning to death because you were unable to free them from the rubble. Then there’s the shame that comes with remembering what you had to do to survive for years in a barely functioning city of death.
Even today, most survivors won’t talk about it. They say it’s because we won’t understand anyway, but the real problem is, they’ll remember far more than they want to or can express. The pain and fear are too great. It’s too hard to hold back the trembling and the tears.
Despite the pain, thousands of survivors have spoken out over the years, and many are doing so now who held their silence for more than six decades. They see the older ones passing away, and they know it’s their turn. They know that if they keep quiet, the memories will be gone forever. They know, too, that those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it, and to avoid repeating the atomic bombings, no price is too great.
Survivors have travelled the globe, often at their own expense, to tell their stories. Through one program (Hibakusha Stories), survivors have spoken to over 20,000 high school students in the five boroughs of New York City. In 1998, when India and Pakistan became nuclear-armed nations, seven organizations formed in Hiroshima to warn those populations about cheering for Armageddon. Other survivors have stayed at home but have told their story nearly every day for decades to field trip students and other visitors to the A-bomb museums. John Hersey (author of the classic Hiroshima), former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, and many others have credited the survivors and their stories with preventing the use nuclear weapons in combat since Nagasaki. To the extent that their testimonies have had that effect, the survivors have saved our lives.
Next year, 2015, will mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings. We are now losing important eyewitness survivors nearly every day, and the ones who remain are increasingly filled with urgent passion and anxiety. Have their stories been heard? Will their message to the human family get through? What will happen when they’re all gone?
Everyone who knows a survivor personally knows the sense of crisis they’re struggling with. To ease their minds, we need to thank them for their decades of service and assure them that we, the ones who will carry on when they are no longer with us, have heard their message and are determined to keep up the good fight. In fact, we intend to crank it up a notch.
Using the new tools the Internet has made available, let’s take over and get the job done. Getting rid of nuclear weapons is a no brainer. What conceivable reason could there be to use weapons that will kill the winners just as dead as the losers? Nuclear weapons are obscenely dangerous, ridiculously expensive, and completely unusable for anything but threatening to remove human life from Planet Earth.
Let’s thank the hibakusha in the only way they will find meaningful. Let’s show them that millions, literally millions, have heard their message. Let’s all help get that message across to the billions who haven’t heard it yet. And let’s tell our leaders that the time has come. No more messing around. No more threats. No more delays. We want to live in a nuclear-weapon-free world, and we want it now.
The third international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has just taken place December 6 through 9 in Vienna, Austria. With over 600 people attending the NGO conference and 160 countries attending the nation-level conference, the humanitarian impact movement is growing ever stronger. A massive outpouring of grassroots interest between now and August 9 this year could actually turn the tide and bring us the ban treaty we need to build an effective global campaign.
Please join the movement. This website will help you take significant actions on your own. It will help you get the word out to the rest of the world, and it will tie you in to the vast network of people that are already doing their part of what needs to be done. Please sign in, do your bit, and bring in everyone you know.