Seventy years ago at 8:15 the world we lived in changed for ever. When the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” exploded above downtown Hiroshima it showed in one single act that technology had caught up with the brutality of human nature. Hiroshima would forever be associated with one of the most brutal acts ever committed against a civilian population by a military power.
There are differing schools of thought on the necessity of the bombing both condemning and justifying the slaughter of thousands of women and children. But one thing I have learnt and continue to learn from living here is the power of forgiveness and the power of looking forward.
I was sent to Hiroshima just over twelve years ago by my then company to teach English. Hearing that I’d be placed in a Hiroshima school left me with a feeling of trepidation to say the least. Were the radiation levels safe in Hiroshima? Would I be looked on as the enemy? I could only imagine how Australians would feel today in the same circumstances. I had to rethink whether or not I really wanted to go.
We were briefed early on to never bring up the war in the lessons and if the students did then to answer as diplomatically as possible while steering the conversation to something less controversial. Pointing out as quickly as possible that I was Australian was the modus operandi when meeting any one.
The Peace Memorial Park located in the city center was an initially uncomfortable place to be for me. I felt immense guilt every time I saw the A-Bomb Dome – one of the only remaining structures left amongst the rubble that gave any hint that a city existed in this location – or walked through the Park to see the paper cranes hanging up that were sent from kids from all around the world and the monuments homouring the victims.
The Peace Museum is located in the Park too but it took me almost three years to visit it. I’m not sure exactly why I avoided it for so long but perhaps I just wasn’t ready to see the horrors close up while being mistaken for an American tourist? It took my friend’s coming from Australia for me to go in and experience it as their guide. It was at that moment a huge weight was lifted and it reinforced what I believed from experience. This was not about recriminations or apportioning blame, it was a warning of what we are capable of when we create these barriers between countries and cultures that cause an almost dehumanizing effect on those different from ourselves.
The people of Hiroshima couldn’t be more welcoming, willing to share the beauty of their city and culture. The A-Bomb has ensured that the name Hiroshima will always be known around the world but the people of Hiroshima don’t let that define who they are. They’re not trapped as the victims of a horrific act and when you spend time here you see that Hiroshima is much more than a scene of a tragic event.
Enormous resilience to rebuild from the rubble is a testament to the best of humanity. They look back on this day as a way to show us how to move forward. Immensely proud of their role in the promotion of global peace with the words “No More Hiroshimas”. Determined to be known for much more than this city which has become my home reminds me everyday that no matter what happens to us or how low we get that there’s always hope.