I was recently playing a game of We Love Katamari when I got to a level in which a child asks that we collect 1,000 paper cranes for their sick friend. So far i've only gotten to some 700+ cranes. According to japanese legend, if a person were to fold 1,000 origami paper cranes, this person would be granted a wish. This tale gained popularity with the story of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki, who was a victim of the bombing of Hiroshima. Sadako was just 2 years old when the bomb hit about a mile from her home.
While fortunate enough to survive the attack, her health deteriorated over time. She developed strange purple spots on her body and about 10 years after the bomb hit, she was diagnosed with leukemia - no doubt a result of the radiation. Apparently the story goes that a friend of hers suggested she fold 1,000 paper cranes in order to get better. Some say Sadako was unable to finish and that her friends finished them after her death. Other sources say she finished them, but died shortly thereafter. Whatever, the case may be, the story is still a sad one. Sadako has become a martyr of the tragedy of the atomic bombs as well as a symbol of hope for a future where no on should have to suffer her kind of fate. There are statues dedicated to her memory in several parts of the world, and people continue to visit and remember Sadako and her paper cranes.
I am also reminded of one of my favorite films, Grave of the Fireflies. This emotionally charged film tells the story of a brother and sister who have to fend for themselves in World War II Japan (and more specifically during the fallout of the atom bombs.) If there was ever a truly captivating anti-war, anti-bomb film, this would be it. The story is beautiful and completely heart-wrenching all at once and captures the essence of what life must have been like following the bombings. (Watch the english-dubbed version below)
August 6th was the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. 3 days later, on August 9th, 1945, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Truman's "difficult" choice was not so difficult. Yes, Pearl Harbor was a tragedy. But the Japanese did not attack the homes of our children. They specifically targeted a military base, and while it is not to say that the lives of those soldiers who died were not worth the same as those of the victims of the atomic bombs, these were men who WERE soldiers and WERE involved with our government and military. The Japanese did not find those soldiers' families and kill them. Both sides were at fault for these events. But none suffered more than those who were innocent bystanders during the fall of the atomic bombs. These people were in their homes, at school, in playgrounds, in hospital rooms, cooking, cleaning, reading, going to work, having breakfast, completely oblivious to what was about to befall them. Perhaps Truman and the rest had no idea of how destructive the bombs would be. Perhaps they didn't realize the amount of radiation sickness that was to continue to claim lives decades after the bombs hit. Or perhaps they simply didn't care. Either way, it is one of the greatest tragedies in history. If you don't believe me, watch this footage from 1945, just some days after the bomb hit. See the destruction and watch how the people suffered. The camera doesn't do it justice.
My heart goes out to those who experienced the bombings, those whose families and lives were essentially destroyed by the events, and those who died tragically and innocently. The mayor of Nagasaki now asks the world to join him (and cites a speech given by President Obama) in the fight to put an end to the use of nuclear weapons.
"We as human beings, now have two paths before us. While one can leads us to a world without nuclear weapons, the other will carry us toward annihilation, bringing us to suffer once again the destruction experience in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 64 years ago." (August 8, 2009 - Mayor Taue of Nagasaki)