Monday, August 09, 2010

On the 65th anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima

Cover of "The Last Train from Hiroshima: ...
Recently the world marked the  65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.  Coincidentally I had just finished ristening to "The Last Train from Hiroshima" by Charles Pellegrino.

Yes, I know.  There is controversy about it and some of the "facts" in the book and that the movie that was to be made based on the book may be canceled and the publisher as ceased publication of the 'non fiction" book.  And the author may or may not have a PHD.  All of that is quite aside from the book.  And whether is is "fiction" or "non-fiction" is a fairly immaterial to me.  I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal from it.

( I would encourage you to read Pellegrino's side of things before jumping to too many conclusions on the book.)

The book describes in detail (in some cases millisecond by millisecond) the time after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It tells of the firestorms, the destruction, and the deaths.  The main reason (besides historical curiosity) that I bought the books was to see how BonaResponds can help after disasters.  And sure enough there are many many similarities: 

  1. The survivors feel simultaneously both lucky and cursed. 
  2. There are amazing stories of survival and harrowing stories of death and injury which appear to largely random in both cases.
  3. Survivors often feel totally lost and forgotten and NGOs and Governments get blamed for a lack of swift response with food or water.  
  4. The post traumatic stress can be as bad as the disaster itself breaking up families, leading to suicides, and untold other problems.   
  5. Rumors spread, while important (and sometimes life saving) information fails to filter up the chain of command. 
  6. How those going to help are often told not to go as it is too dangerous (ironically in the book the person left Nagasaki to go to Hiroshima and thus missed the bombing there).
  7. How the survivors are often seen as to blame (Including one scene that was eerily reminiscent to New Orleans residents not being able to cross bridges into Gretna after Katrina)

But what struck me as much as these stories, were the stories of how some of the survivors used the disaster as a life changing event who overcame their problems and went on to bigger and better things.  Most famous among these are the so-called peace advocates.

While not speaking of war or peace here, their message is so strong that it deserves to be heard by all.  And since the book is now out of publication.   Each of which is as meaningful to a BonaResponds volunteer now as they were to St. Francis eight centuries ago,  Jesus twenty centuries ago, or to our ancestors thousands and thousands of years ago:

In the months after the bombings, Dr. (Paul) Takashi Nagai went on to do much charity work and later speak on the need for peace.  Here from page 271,  where he was speaking about the site he established for survivors to come and get help (Incidentally I imagine his camp like the Rangers original camp in Pass Christian MS after Katrina).

"I have named this place Nyokodo because the ancient prophets-Budah and Jesus, Hille; and Mohammad--each near the ends of their human journeys, said essentially the same thing: "love others as you love yourself'"

Later on Page 298, Pellegrino writes about a young victim of the bombing who was suffering from various blood disorders brought about by the radiation of the bombs.   
 "For Sadako, the lesson became Omoiyari, which meant:' in your heart, always think of the other person before yourself."

This helping others is the BonaResponds' message.  Indeed it is the unviersal message.  Go make the world a better place.  It need not be after a disaster it can be an every day event.  It need not be a trip around the world, it can be a trip to the local grocery store for an sick or elderly neighbor.

You can do it alone, or with others.  But please do it.  There are people who need the help. And the great thing is, it will make you happier as well!  
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