A Japanese woman suffers burns from thermal radiation after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in World War II. Public domain

Speaking Out: Lessons from Hiroshima

By  Kate Jamieson, Youth Speak News
  • February 23, 2018
I was reading Dennis Bocks’ The Ash Garden for English class last semester. The book follows the story of three main characters affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during the Second World War.

I knew the bomb that fell on the Japanese city on Aug. 6, 1945 was responsible for more than 150,000 deaths, but it can be quite difficult to wrap my mind around what that means. That is, until I met the characters in this book and saw it through their eyes.

This historical fiction centres around a couple, one of whom is part of the group of scientists responsible for the making of the atomic bomb, and a woman named Emiko, who survived the horror.

I followed Emiko’s story especially closely. Her story caused me to reflect on my own life and the things I sometimes take for granted — my health, my family and my privacy. Reading the scenes where her naked body was examined by doctor after doctor, touching her to feel her burns, made me feel very uncomfortable with the lack of compassion and disregard for human dignity.

Beyond the novel, we also watched documentaries of survivors to remind us of the real stories of the bombing victims. They told similar narratives of their childhood tragedy, weeping as they recalled being stuck under collapsed buildings or running to the river while passing burnt body after burnt body.

These testimonies fill me with great empathy. Although nuclear warfare is still a threat, I haven’t grown up in fear of war, a privilege that the people living in 1945 did not have. I am empathetic to those for whom this was a reality but it also causes me to question human motivation and cruelty. The bomb was supposed to end the war and save lives, but it also ruined so many lives that it’s hard to understand the justification.

Jesus was a man who showed love and empathy and compassion for the enemy and I still believe there is good in the world. We see it all the time in the love people show each other. Yet events like Hiroshima make clear to me what a world without God would look like.

The experience of learning of these tragedies has helped me grow closer to my faith. I find much of my connection to God not always in prayer but in action. It affirmed for me that we need to show love for our neighbour and work to make a world that values human dignity, life, compassion and empathy.

I have always felt a purpose as an advocate and caregiver for others. Reading and learning to understand these tragedies reminds me how important this role can be in ensuring a world where unlike the past, no one needs to live in fear of war.

As a Catholic, love is a central part of my life. Learning about the human tragedies in Hiroshima have reminded me of the importance of making that love a central part of our world.

(Jamieson, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge, Ont.)

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