By Maria Rocha-Buschel
High school students at the UN International School at Waterside Plaza welcomed two World War II survivors from Japan to their class on Monday to hear their experiences from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The program was brought to the school by the organization Hibakusha Stories, which is a UN-affiliated NGO and is honoring the 70th anniversary of the bombings this year. A uranium bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6 and a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
Yasuaki Yamashita from Nagasaki and Setsuko Thurlow from Hiroshima shared their experiences with the students.
Yamashita, now an artist in Mexico, was six years old at the time and living a mile and a half from the hypocenter in Nagasaki. He explained that on the morning that the bomb was dropped, he was playing outside by himself when a neighbor and his sister both said they heard strange airplanes flying over the city.
“My mother took my hand and when we got inside our house there was a tremendous crash,” he said. “It was like a thousand lightning bolts at the same time. She covered my body with her body. There was tremendous noise and then there was silence. When I looked up at the windows, doors and roof, there was nothing there.”
Yamashita said that he and his family attempted to reestablish normal life afterwards. He explained that didn’t really think of himself as an atomic bomb survivor until he was working in an atomic bomb hospital after he graduated high school and he encountered a young man with leukemia who was around his age.
“One day he was suffering and his body became covered in black marks, and he died the next day,” Yamashita said. “Then I thought it would happen to me.”
Thurlow was 13 at the time of the bombing of Hiroshima and was working at army headquarters to help the war effort.
“We were trained to use math skills to read top secret messages from the front lines and decode them,” she said. “It is unimaginable that a 13-year-old girl was doing this.”