Survivor: First-hand account
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.”
Anti-nuclear activist Pam Kingfisher speaks at Broken Arrow High School on Tuesday.