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Student standing near shrine in Japan with text "World Peace Center Reflections"

World Peace Center Reflections #JUSFC

June 18, 2018

The experience from this trip that touched me the most and made me rethink my assumptions about the war was the first time we heard a hibakusha (bomb survivor) testimony at the World Peace Center.  The now elderly hibakusha who spoke with us was very young when the bomb was dropped.  She and her classmates were forced to go to work and help the war effort because all the men were being drafted.  When the bomb dropped, she was weeding a potato field with her friends on the outskirts of town.  After the bomb was dropped, she said she recalled people screaming, but at the time she didn’t know what happened.

Student standing next to Sumo shrine in Japan

The first thing she did was look for her school bag and while she was looking, she found her one friend burned and badly injured; her friend asked her to tell her father where she was if she ran into him.  A group of the survivors, including some of her fellow classmates, were standing next to the river at the time, and when she went over to them, they pointed out her burns.  This was the first time she felt the pain and burning all down her back, arms, and head.  She wanted nothing more than to go swimming in the river and cool off, but just then her teacher came running up screaming, “Don’t drink the water!”.  She didn’t know why she couldn’t, but all she knew was that her teacher said not to, so she didn’t drink it or use it to cool her burns.

Her teacher took all of them to a partially standing school in town and on the way there, she said there was the awful smell of death and decay. She mentioned how she still hasn’t forgotten that smell today and continued about how she attended memorial ceremonies right after and over many years after the bombing had passed.  She still walks through the memorial park in Hiroshima everyday, even when it rains, as well as tell her story, as a form of therapy.  This woman is amazing to me because of how she overcame the horrid thing that happened and was well enough to share her experience.

Student learning traditional Japanese writing

When I heard her story, it changed forever changed my thinking on war.  In classes we are taught only numbers and facts which we quickly forget.  However, because of that one day she became one of the number of survivors, she never was allowed to forget the tragedy of that day.

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