Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Soh-san

July 22nd, Soh-san is the first hibakusha to give a testimony for us. Unfortunately, I had regrettably not yet thought to take notes until the next testimony. I still remember some details, however, Soh-san was six years old when the bomb had dropped. His father was killed since he was closer to the hypocenter. Soh-san had witnessed the victims, some very young, coming from the center of the city. The bodies were blackened and horribly injured. To see this at a young age must have been soul-shattering. When I think of myself at six years old, I cannot imagine the shock that must have come over him. Soh-san and his remaining family members fled to safety but the effects would remain.

Soh-san had shown us some incredible visuals that truly helped us get to see his family and connect better with what had happened. We were shown photos of him and his family before the blast. They look to be such a lovely family that I personally had to hold back tears. For some reason, I was not as emotionally moved by pictures of burnt bodies or destruction in this case. Instead, I was captured by the image of a family I knew was going to be torn apart very shortly after. I still wonder if it has ever been difficult for Soh-san to look at these pictures. I was too hesitant to ask this very personal question. After all, the events of a single day impacted him and his family for the rest of their lives. August 6th, 1945 would not be the end of Soh-san or his family’s story.

Today, Soh-san is an energetic man in his 70s. He and his family had continued to suffer from cancer and other effects of radiation after the war. It is incredibly cruel in the way his family had to suffer further long after losing their father. I used to wonder why the citizens of Hiroshima stayed in the area after the bomb. I now know that it is simply the utter lack of information they had. Anyone who’s seeing the effects of such a bomb for the first time would almost certainly believe it is safe after the fire is out. I have heard many times about the effects of radiation but this is the first time I’ve knowingly met someone who’s faced it. 

This being the first testimony, I believe I was especially affected by how real that day had suddenly become for me. One thing that had registered in my mind more than ever before is the novelty of the bomb and the resulting confusion surrounding it. Those living in Hiroshima must have been prepared for another firebombing but instead got something nobody was prepared for. Nowadays, we’re so familiar with A-bombs that I had forgotten how confusing it would be to experience one with no prior knowledge of it.  Soh-san helped me realize that lack of information may be one of the scariest aspects of disasters. 

With an event happening back in 1945, I feel I’ve been separated from the mentality of the victims at that moment. I am incredibly grateful to Hibakusha like Soh-san for bringing the stories of an event that feels so long ago to the present moment. My schooling in the U.S. feels less effective now. The detached classroom setting I’ve been in before could not have been enough for me to understand the human aspect that still endures. Seeing Soh-san still work and participate with the WFC gives me joy because it shows incredible endurance. Despite the lasting effects of the tragedy that victimized him and so many others, he still lives and tells his story. In his closing statement, Soh-san expresses an end to nuclear weaponry. The final lesson is for there to be no more hibakushas. I cannot agree more and hope to pass his wishes on.

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