The two words are almost always guaranteed to come up in any conversation, debate or literature about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the infamous date of August 6 1945.
The deadly devastation that was unleashed on those two cities courtesy of the United States and their A-bomb is stunning even by our modern standards. Commemorating and trying to spread a message of peace is not trite or hippie-fare, it is a responsibility. If you don’t believe that, visit Hiroshima sometime.
After my trip to Japan this past April, Hiroshima holds a special place in my heart and global conscience. Attending today’s Hiroshima Day ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto only felt natural. Toronto is among the almost 3,000 cities in the “Mayors for Peace” movement.
As I listened to Hiroshima survivors tell their story my mind pictured the bustling, blue-collar friendly city I experienced this spring. As I heard their words depicting the horror they have emblazoned in their minds, I tried to picture the city I enjoyed so much, leveled and ashen, burnt to cinders.
It is the modern Hiroshima that inspires me so much. To walk the streets now of a city which was utterly destroyed except for the iconic A-Bomb Dome and the facade of a bank seems unreal. Hiroshima, as I blogged earlier this year, is a prime example of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the worst humankind can do to one another and the strength of will and spirit.
As I looked at the various lanterns children made at the Toronto ceremony, reading their simple messages of hope written in crayon and in that “kid script” we all once had (…and some of us reporters still do…) I recalled the message of peace we ran into almost everywhere in Hiroshima.
Whether it was a little restaurant, a coffee shop or a hostel, all away from the tourist areas, their messages of peace or requests for you, the guest, to express your peace, were evident. Seeing them again and again, left an impression. How a city destroyed rebounds and takes on the mission of spreading peace, when it was a victim, is not just admirable but noble.
Survivors of the atomic bombs from Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known as Hibakusha. Innocent people around the globe since World War Two and even now suffer horrors thanks to war and unrest but the mass of humanity burnt to nothing in these two Japanese cities cannot be forgotten. As these Hibakusha now enter their last years and pass away, their memories, messages and the responsibility to carry them on, grows in importance.