The other night I went to bed, slid into my tiny space next to my baby and my husband, and couldn’t get to sleep. This is not necessarily something new for me, but that night was different. I put my cheek on my baby’s arm and just took in his milky, perfect skin. I caressed his head and cheek and wrist and hand and fingers. Gently, so as not to wake him (I’m not crazy!). I was overwhelmed with gratitude for him, for all my children, for all my friends and family. For this life.
I had just watched a documentary on HBO called White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They used lengthy interviews and archival footage to tell the story of the survivors of the A-bomb that the U.S. dropped on them on August 6, 1945, to end WWII.
You can imagine, just from the title, that the movie was not a feel good flick (see an interview with the filmmaker here). Most of the movie has subtitles, because it is the actual survivors speaking japanese, telling what they experienced, talking about all they endured.
It shook me. I shake still.
So much of that whole event has been glossed over for us. We barely study it in history class in school, and we certainly don’t hear anything about that pesky death and destruction part. It seems that this documentary alone should be required viewing (for older aged teens, because it shows graphic images of the dead and wounded), just so that we can teach people the truth and consequences of our actions, no matter if those actions are necessary or not. The beginning of the movie is of the filmmakers roaming the streets, asking people what happened on August 6, 1945. No one knew the answer.
Whether we agree with our actions on that day or not, the victims should not be forgotten simply because it’s inconvenient, yucky or upsetting.
It needs to never happen again.
If you listen to any of the international news, the “nuclear” word is thrown around daily, by many countries, including our own. Don’t be fooled into thinking this issue is not a current one, because it is. Sticking our head in the sand is not a defense.
Most of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lost all their siblings and their parents. One man said, “the only things that moved in Hiroshima were the flies over the dead”. Another said, “I realized there are two kinds of courage. The courage to die, and the courage to live. I chose the courage to live, even if I was alone.” She was 10 at the time the bomb hit.
The death toll between the two cities was over 200,000 people the day of the bomb, with over 160,000 more dying from injuries or radiation toxicity (those stats are from the documentary). Today, over 60 years later, the survivors still have severe health problems. Tumors, pain, cancer, it goes on and on and on. At the time, when they were all showing up with “atomic bomb disease”, or radiation poisoning, no one knew it existed. We hadn’t studied that part yet.
The survivors carried around a stigma, were shunned from society and treated like the radiation symptoms they exhibited were contagious. No one wanted to be by them or marry them. If they did marry and have children, their own children were also shunned.
One survivor said, “even though we survived, we couldn’t live or die like human beings”.
They were almost all children, and had no where to go. They lived on the streets, eating radiated food or animals that they could catch. Their government did nothing, our government did nothing.
So as I lay there thinking of my baby’s skin, and all the images of the children with burned and charred skin, I remembered that life is so beautiful for us. No matter the struggles, the hard days, the financial woes. My children are not orphans. They aren’t wandering the streets looking for food so they don’t starve. They aren’t enduring agonizing pain from burns allover their body.
Can you even imagine?
The status of things with our government and military, and our enemies, is very fragile right now. When it feels as though there’s nothing we moms can do, one thing we can remember is how precious our love and life is. We can teach our children the same, and hope and pray that these stories stay in history and don’t become a part of our future.