Hibakusha is the Japanese word for survivors and this week two came to Tulsa to give their testimonies with the organization ICAN the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. The two Atomic bomb survivors came to share their eye witness accounts of the bombings in order to empower us with tools to build a world free of nuclear weapons.
As Yasuaki began speaking, my cell phone rang! And kept ringing. I was one of those people who failed to silence mine and regretted it like crazy. But Yasuaki never stopped telling the story of the 6 year old boy he had been the day the bomb fell on Nagasaki. His family lived near the mountain and the mountain protected them from the blast, but they had no food, so they went to search for it and saw the devastation and the suffering of people walking like ghosts and saw people go into the blast zone desperately looking for relatives and not knowing about the radiation they were exposed to.
When he was older he worked in the Atomic Bomb hospital with patients who suffered terribly. Yasuaki believed he would die in these horrible ways, it would be just a matter of time. All survivors suffered another way, too. People saw them as contagious and discriminated against them. No one would marry the women, there were many suicides of both men and women. He decided to hide his identity and go to Mexico, learned Spanish and began speaking about his experiences. Mexico became the first country to be a Nuclear Free Zone. He has continued to speak out for a peaceful world. He asked all of us to understand the Hibakusha are getting older and the stories must continue to be told after they are no longer able.
He asked us to be that tiny stone in the water, use our voice, then 2 people’s voices are stronger. He asked for us to please help. He was drained when he sat next to Shigeko Sasamori who was a 13 year old school girl in Hiroshima when she and her friend looked up into the brilliant blue sky when they heard the plane overhead and saw something white falling from it and then she was blown down by a force that knocked her unconscious. She was flattened, deaf and unable to see when she regained consciousness. She was bleeding and naked. Her friend gone forever. But she began walking feeling her way with others all walking toward the rivers for relief, but the riverbanks were full of people dead and suffering. She ended up in an auditorium weak but asking for water and saying her name and where she lived over and over, still unable to see.
Her parents were not injured in the blast, but were searching for her and finally found her and took her home. They cut her burnt kinky hair off and scraped black burnt skin from her eyes and mouth and hid all the mirrors. Eight years later the American Norman Cousins raised the funds to take 25 Hiroshima maidens to America for reconstructive surgeries and she was one of them. Shigeko ended abruptly and sat down, drained. The Hibakusha with their advancing age, have a very limited opportunity to share their accounts. They were inspiring as were the ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Winners and Norman Cousins’ belief that “War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace with justice.” He affirmed that human beings could do better, be better, and create better societies. “The starting point for a better world is the belief that it is possible. Civilization begins in the imagination. The wild dream is the first step to reality. Visions and ideas are potent only when they are shared. Until then, they are merely a form of daydreaming.”
When we met Shigeko after the program in her excitement about being in Tulsa, she sang a whole stanza of O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, she knew all the words, and my brother Clark Frayser sang right along with her! She told us she loved that song being in TULSA and in OKLAHOMA! Clark remembered the words of another song from that play, "Oh what a beautiful morning," and told her when our Dad was in the war in Europe the bugler began playing it each morning instead of the usual reveille!
Those hosting the event wanted everyone who attended and participated in their programs to know that their Nobel Peace Prize belongs to US, too! They know it does because no one could leave that room without knowing we have to invent peace with justice, we have to take it from a daydream to become our reality. We have to do our part to make sure there are no more Hiroshima, Nagasaki tragedies ever again.
We will make every effort to make it a “Beautiful Morning, a Beautiful Day”
When I got home I picked up the book of poems Bruno Navasky had translated by Japanese children, "Festival in My Heart," to go deeper in my feelings for the voices of Japanese children in happier days. You will love reading them, too, and may need to after learning about the Hibakusha, but we must never forget either.
Respectfully with Peace and Justice ~ Rebecca Jim