This is ground zero of the first atomic bomb detonation aimed at killing humans. The “atomic bomb dome” in Hiroshima is now a monument visited by thousands of people weekly in the Hiroshima Peace Park. On August 6, 1945, an uranium bomb exploded 600 meters almost directly over this building, a former exhibition hall. Because the angle of impact was directly above, the building’s columns and dome survived the blast while a kilometer in every direction was leveled. Almost half of the city (140,000 people) were killed and combined with a second atomic bomb in Nagasaki August 9, 1945, the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, known as VJ Day (Victory over Japan) in the USA. The Americans were aiming for a nearby bridge as the target, but missed by about 300 meters.
I am in Hiroshima as a chaperone with students from our school. Last night at the hotel Garden Palace, we arranged a survivor of the bomb to come and speak with us. Hara-san is 77 years old and the former director of the Hiroshima Peace Museum. He was waiting for a train on that fateful morning at the Hiroshima station with his parents and older sister. Fortunate for him, they were on the backside of the building and luckily survived the walls crashing on them. The debris protected them from the fire and they were able to crawl out. They also fled the city in an eastward direction, which was away from the epicenter. They had no idea which direction the blast came from and by leaving to the east, avoided more radiation poisoning. He spoke of stepping over dead bodies for hundreds of meters and listening to the cries of people with burned flesh. Absolutely horrible. His message to us was one of peace and futility of nuclear weapons. Walking through the museum and seeing the charred school lunch boxes and school uniforms emphasized the fact that many children died.
The grade 4 students made 1000 paper cranes, a symbol of healing and long life in Japan in honor of the children who died in the blast, and like the famous Sadako, died from cancer several years later, and the students placed the cranes at the children’s peace memorial.