This was the entire reason we stopped in Hiroshima but nothing could have prepared us for what we were going to experience. As we turned the corner adjacent to the Peace Park Memorial we were greeted with a grizzly scene that set the mood for our visit:
This building, formerly the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall but now known as the A-Bomb Dome, was the only one left standing near the epicenter of the first of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. It has been preserved in nearly the exact state which it was found immediately after the blast to provide the world a visual reminder of the unconscionable devastation weapons of this kind can inflict.
Milling around its perimeter were groups of anti-nuclear activists asking tourists and locals alike to sign petitions to ban these weapons around the globe. Some of them lived during the blast, some had family killed in the blast but what they had in common was that they all knew far too well what kind of hellish reality a world with these weapons can hold.
After signing a few of the petitions (and receiving a gift of an origami bird as a ‘thank you’ – a symbolic gesture stemming from a victim who was passionate about the art form) Jenna and I continued down to the Peace Park Memorial, an iconic stone arch several thousand feet from the A-Bomb Dome which if perceived dead-on, encapsulates the building’s remains like an eerie picture frame.
Just beyond the memorial we made our way into the museum in which I decided not to take any photos – partly because I have no desire to see any of those images again and partly because I’ll never be able to forget what I saw. So it’ll just be text from here on out.
Immediately upon entering you walk through a recreation of a ruined building which upon turning the first corner you notice has mannequins of two young children, bleeding, clothes torn and skin melting off their arms, trying to make their way out of the rubble, begging you for help with their eyes.
As you make your way past this sickening scene you’re presented with scraps of clothing and personal effects from the children who perished. Little shoes, torn trousers, a melted tricycle. It’s enough to make you want to cry.
The proceeding rooms included a combination of photos of the victims (the burns were beyond description), materials affected by the blast (stone roof shingles were melted), scientific explanations of how the bomb worked and stories of those affected in the weeks, months and years after the blast by its radiation.
The only way to describe it was absolutely horrifying.
Each of us learns about the atomic bombs in history class but usually as nothing more than a swift way to end WWII. But seeing what happened up close changes all that.
We don’t learn about the burns. We don’t learn about the children who screamed in agony for days in weeks hoping for death to come.
We don’t learn about the families who thought they escaped the devastation just to have their son or daughter show signs of radiation poisoning months later, lose their hair and eventually die after their little bodies could no longer handle the constant vomiting and diarrhea (in many cases of their own organs).
Part of me wondered if I should tone down my descriptions here. But I didn’t because that would accomplish nothing.
Because I’ve heard comments like “Why don’t we just nuke [insert troubled country here] and be done with it?” in recent memory.
And while you can just brush it off as an insensitive, grotesque thing to say (and it is), it’s also very obvious that person has never seen the horrifying results of their proposed action – because no human in their right mind would wish that on another.
So that’s why it is vital for the world to know the true costs of these weapons – because it’s essential we never make the same mistake again. So my hope is one person will read this who is not aware of the true horror that is these weapons hold, and that we’ll be one person closer to a nuclear weapon-free planet.