From the September-October 2015 issue of News & Letter
Editor’s note: Darrell Miho spoke at the Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles on Aug. 2, to commemorate the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Below are excerpts of his talk.
Los Angeles—We are here to remember two horrible days in history. On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, two atomic bombs were detonated, one over Hiroshima and one over Nagasaki. On those two days, thousands of innocent men, women and children were vaporized, hundreds of thousands more died by the end of the year, and countless more lives were changed forever.
Over the past five years, I have met over 400 hibakusha (atomic survivors). A survivor in Hawai’i was 18 years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Most of the buildings were destroyed, including the crematoriums. Bodies were all over the place and rotting in the heat. His job was to pile up wood and cremate the bodies. He doesn’t remember how many bodies he cremated or how many days he did it. But he said he still remembers vividly the unbearable stench of the rotting and burning flesh.
Junji Sarashina, an American citizen who now lives in Orange County, spoke about wandering through the city as a teenager, seeing dead bodies everywhere. Bodies lying in the road. Bodies floating down the river. He stopped to try and help someone, but was left with only their skin in his hand.
Mikio Iwasa was 16 years old and three-fourths of a mile from the epicenter in Hiroshima. He wrote, “I found my mother trapped under the collapsed house and I tried to pull her out, but it was impossible for a young boy. So I fled the fire, turning my back to my mother who was saying prayers, sensing that she was going to die. She was burnt alive.” She was killed mercilessly, like an object, not like a human being.
These are just a few of the stories that I have heard while documenting the hibakusha stories. There are many more like this equally heartbreaking. Many talk about the dead bodies lying in the street or floating in the river. Many talk about people asking for water, and then dying after they drank it. But the one thing they all talk about is their hope for peace. Their hope for a world free of nuclear weapons. Their hope that no one will ever have to experience the living hell that they witnessed.