Sur­vivor: First-hand ac­count

Tulsa World - - Our Lives - Sa­muel Hardi­man 918-581-8466 sam.hardi­man @tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @samhardi­man

thou­sands of bod­ies.

She had to talk about it be­fore she is gone and the mem­ory of how World War II ended goes with her.

Tears came to Sasamori as she spoke. Her mis­sion as a hi­bakusha — Ja­panese for ex­plo­sion-af­fected peo­ple — is to tell peo­ple what hap­pened that day.

An es­ti­mated 237,000 peo­ple were killed di­rectly or in­di­rectly by the Hiroshima bomb's ef­fects, in­clud­ing burns, ra­di­a­tion sick­ness and can­cer. Three days af­ter the blast, 40,000 to 75,000 peo­ple were killed im­me­di­ately by a sec­ond U.S. bomb, this one dropped on Na­gasaki.

The stu­dents Sasamori spoke to are the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, she said af­ter­ward. Some­day, she noted, no one who sur­vived the only wartime uses of nu­clear weapons will be alive.

Peo­ple will learn about Hiroshima and Na­gasaki, but “maybe in a book or a movie, but no one talk­ing,” Sasamori said.

About 160,000 hi­bakusha re­main alive, by some es­ti­mates. They have an av­er­age age more than 80. Their num­bers, like those of World War II vet­er­ans, are dwin­dling.

The Hi­bakusha Sto­ries project, part of the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons, is work­ing to keep the his­toric events alive by bring­ing peo­ple such as Sasamori and Ya­suaki Ya­mashita, a Na­gasaki sur­vivor, to share the legacy of the bomb­ings with high school and uni­ver­sity stu­dents.

Sasamori and Ya­mashita were 13 and 6, re­spec­tively, when the bombs fell, younger than the stu­dents who at­tended or watched on Tues­day. But the ex­er­cise was in­tended to im­press upon them a re­spect for the de­struc­tive ca­pa­bil­ity of nu­clear weapons.

Sasamori and Kath­leen Sul­li­van, pro­gram di­rec­tor of the Hi­bakusha Sto­ries, at­tempted to show stu­dents the de­struc­tive power of the world's nu­clear arse­nal by drop­ping BB pel­lets on a plate.

One pel­let rep­re­sented all the fire­power in World War II. A whole bag em­bod­ied the com­bined might to­day of every nu­clear mis­sile on every sub­ma­rine, in every bomber hangar and in every mis­sile silo.

Those sober­ing facts weren't lost on the au­di­ence.

Some knew what sci­en­tists had done by creat­ing the atomic bomb, split­ting the atom. Most seemed aware, when asked, of what a bomb or mis­sile could do.

One Bro­ken Ar­row se­nior, Har­vey Juarez, sat sto­ically through­out the morn­ing, but his thoughts turned to what in­no­va­tion had done to the act of war, pro­gress­ing from swords to nu­clear weapons.

He wants to be a me­chanic af­ter grad­u­a­tion, and the tech­nol­ogy of war­fare has al­ways fas­ci­nated him. Yet he said that he doesn't see the merit in us­ing a nu­clear weapon, some­thing he has thought about more re­cently with the ten­sion be­tween the U.S. and North Korea.

“It won't gain any­thing,” Juarez said. “… A lot of peo­ple die. You start from zero again.”

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa Word

Anti-nu­clear ac­tivist Pam King­fisher speaks at Bro­ken Ar­row High School on Tues­day.

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