Hiroshima……. A mother’s Prayer for Peace [Archives:2001/33/Reportage]
Report & Photos:
More than 50 thousand people representing a group of leaders from more than 100 countries around the world gathered on the morning of August 6, 2001 at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony to mark the 56th anniversary of the tragic atomic bombing of Hiroshima and vow to make the twenty-first century one of peace and humanity, free from nuclear weapons.
Mr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of the City of Hiroshima urged the world to reject violence and reach peaceful agreements through the power of human reason and conscience. “Hiroshima calls on the national government of Japan to play an active role as a mediator in Asia in creating nuclear free zones and implementing confidence-building measures,” he said.
In a message read out on his behalf by UN Under Secretary General Kenzo Oshima, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on the world to get rid of weapons of mass-destruction, especially nuclear weapons. “Let us renew our solemn vow never to repeat the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Annan.
The ceremony began at 8:00 O’clock with the Mayor of the City of Hiroshima and representatives of the bereaved families, placing two books at the cenotaph. The books contained names of some of the recognized victims of the atomic bomb. Participants were given a time to present flowers to the souls of the victims. Hundreds of flowers were placed in front of the cenotaph in prayers for eternal peace.
At 8.15, the exact time when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, people stood in silence praying for peace, which coincided with steady rings from the Peace Bell.
The 45-hour event was concluded by hundreds of students wearing white uniforms and singing the Hiroshima Peace Song, greatly arousing the participants’ emotions.
The even was attended by Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi, House of Councilors President Yutaka Inouo and the Mayor of Nagasaki Itcho Ito.
At 8:15 a.m. August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb used against people exploded approximately 580 meters above the center of Hiroshima, reducing the entire city to scorched rubble, claiming countless lives and devastating the city’s social, political, economic, and medical functions.
The atomic-bomb showered the earth below with high levels of radiation, which penetrated deep into its victims’ bodies, destroying both cells and tissue. The potential effects of this radiation threatens the health of survivors to this day, and the mere threat has inflicted tremendous psychological damage. The suffering caused by radiation is immeasurable.
The physical damage inflicted by the atomic bomb included burns from the intense thermal rays, injuries from the blast, and cellular destruction by radiation. To this day there is no exact estimate of the total number of persons killed by the atomic bomb, which destroyed all population records. Because the number of casualties continued to climb for years, even decades, the total number of deaths attributed to the bomb depended on the date of the survey. According to the city’s estimate, the total number of dead in Hiroshima by the end of December 1945, when deaths from acute conditions had subsided, was approximately 140,000 (plus or minus 10000).
Wounded mothers carried dead babies. The river flooded with thousands of dead bodies. No one can forget those horrifying scenes.
But spring came again to Hiroshima, where it was said grass would never grow again. Since then Hiroshima has become a major pilgrimage destination for the promotion of peace. Movements of peace against nuclear weapons have also spread since then, appealing for no more Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. The horror of the atomic bomb experience made the people of Hiroshima believe that human beings cannot co-exist with nuclear weapons. The indelible conviction that these weapons are unacceptable gave rise to the Spirit of Hiroshima, the constant and unwavering desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons and a world permanently at peace. It was this spirit that set Hiroshima on its present quest.
* The title of this report is taken from a movie screened at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum