When Ogura San enters the room, the drop of a pencil would cause a stir. The silence that accompanied her stare and ever so slight grin cast an aura of respect to all those listening. An aura to be expected from one who survived the destruction caused by the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima.
Imagine being thrown in the air as glass cuts into your flesh. According to San, “This was lucky since she was thrown away from the blinding flash.” As she walked into the epicenter, San saw horrors that are almost impossible to imagine. Horrors inflicted by nuclear weapons upon a civilian population. Where “Bones and people [were] so badly charred that they were stuck together…people refusing water fearing it was contaminated, later dying from thirst… endless black rain falling”. Rain and water laced with toxic radiation everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Many families couldn’t find the ashes or bodies of their loved ones, meaning that even a proper death was a blessing according to San.
The soft hum of the Peace Bell fills the room. I sit in silence praying as the eternal flame burns for the 72nd memorial of Hiroshima. I was there to participate in peace discussions with its citizens, representing the US point of view.
Near the end of my visit, Hiroshima’s Mayor Matsui asked me to be a student advocate for peace in my hometown, but since I will be thousands of miles away from Washington D.C. this year, I’m going to pass on what I learned to my new home in St Andrews. I am not advocating or disagreeing for the U.S. bomb drop, but am rather reflecting on the idea of the heavily used “No More Hiroshima” slogan, which promotes global nuclear peace for the future.
The people of Hiroshima would face discrimination for the rest of their lives by other Japanese fearing their radiation related ailments. Despite this, the survivors worked hard to create change in people’s image of the bombing and its victims. 19 years after the bomb drop, in 1964, a few citizens like Ogura San would travel all over the world for a World Peace Study Mission. Their goal was to give first-hand accounts to world leaders, and advocate for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons for the future.
How has the mission’s message carried on? 15,000 nuclear weapons exist today. At the time of my visit, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had just passed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with two-thirds of the U.N. nations signed onto the bill.
Still, none of the nine nuclear weapon holding nations signed onto the bill, so, while the bill did present a feel-good moment for the global community, it did not actually decrease the total nuclear weapons in the world today. Further, in the following weeks after the treaty, the world saw the island of Guam paralysed in fear of a bitter North Korean regime playing games with Nuclear Strikes on its coast. The threat was a bluff, but nevertheless, it prompts the question: will we see another Hiroshima or Nagasaki in the future? San, and other Japanese students I asked this question to, are not doubtful.