Hiroshima from the inside…

On May 28, President Obama will make history as the first sitting President to visit Hiroshima, Japan.  Hiroshima.  There is so much history, so much emotion, so much grief and sadness, death and destruction, power and strength, in the very word.  Enough discussion goes on about whether or not it was right or wrong, necessary or evil, whether it saved lives by taking lives, whether unleashing hell on earth is something that we, as a country, should or should not apologize for.  I don’t know the answers to those questions and I’m not here to politicize the event itself or President Obama’s visit.  But I’ve been there.  And I’ve been there with my Japanese mother.  And I’ve been forever changed by what I saw.

I’m not sure what words to use to describe our visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Haunting. Sad. Upsetting. My 82 year old mother did not make it more than a third of the way through the exhibits before she was too upset to go on. She was physically sickened by the images and memories. There was a lot to take in.  She was 11 when it happened and living in Sapporo, far north of Hiroshima.  Back then, with no instant news coverage or compelling images, the Japanese government could manage the dissemination of information as it wished.  She had, at that time, no understanding of the massive destruction and loss of life.  Honestly, until she was here, reading the stories and seeing the aftermath, she never fully grasped the horror her fellow Japanese endured that day, or for many, many days after.

We all know, now, of the events of that day. We have read about them in our history books and listened to our parents and grandparents talk about it. We’ve read the news articles and opinion pieces. But the stories, photos, and artifacts presented here were so very personal….children’s lunch boxes, school uniforms tattered and burned, a shoe, a pocket watch. These were school children.  They were, in a twist of sick irony, out of school that day for the sole purpose of clearing away paths of escape in the event their city found itself under attack.  As upsetting as it all was to see, I know it cannot even begin to compare to the anguish many endured at the time. Parents who couldn’t ease their children’s pain as they lay in agony until they died. Parents who never found their children at all. As a parent, I know there are no words for this kind of suffering.

I took a lot of photos that day, but I just could not bring myself to post most of them. It’s something you just have to see for yourself in order for it to bring home the message and the meaning that it’s meant to convey and to serve the purpose that the families who donated them had in mind.  It’s something you should see.  It’s something your children should see.  Not because we should all feel bad about what happened, but because we should all feel compelled to ensure it never happens again.  

Hiroshima copy

 

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