70 years after Hiroshima

Hiroshima aftermath. Photo by the “Enola Gay” bomber pilot Paul Tibbets. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The second week of my home stay in Tokyo, in 2008, my host mother, Keiko, greeted me at the breakfast table with a large book. “Abby-san,” she said, “this is a book you should look at. It is important for you to see.” As I took it, I saw that it was a Japanese photographic history of Hiroshima, with horrific photographs and stories of the aftermath of the atomic bomb. I didn’t know what to say to her, except to bow slightly and say thank you and promise that I would read it.

My heart broke a little that she seemed to think that I had never seen these photos before or that I was unaware of what had happened in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The next morning, I told her thank you again for the book and said, gently, that we had seen some of these photos in history class in school. She raised her eyebrows slightly, in mild surprise, and then said, “Never forget them, Abby-san.” On this 70th anniversary of that evil day, I haven’t.

For those who are interested, John Hersey’s 1946 piece about Hiroshima in the New Yorker  is essential reading.

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