Hibakusha Testimony & The Humanitarian Effects of Nuclear Weapons

During the month of April, Peace Boat US, in partnership with Hibakusha Stories, has hosted a powerful and inspiring group of Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors). Since their arrival in New York, they have spoken at schools in all five burroughs of the city as well as the United Nations during the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee conference, to testify to the harmful and life changing effects that war—and specifically nuclear war—has caused on generations of survivors.

On Monday, I visited The Calhoun School to hear one survivor’s story. Ms. Sasamori’s bio reads as follows:

“Shigeko Sasamori-san was only 13 years-old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Hearing the sound of a plane, she looked up to see a B-29 flying overhead — seconds later she was knocked unconscious by the blast. When she came to, she was so badly burned that she was unrecognizable. Shigeko repeated her name and address over and over until she was finally found by her father. Years later she would travel to the United States in 1955 as part of a group of young women known as the Hiroshima Maidens. While in the United States, she underwent numerous plastic surgery operations and met her adoptive father, Dr. Norman Cousins. Her story is featured in Steven Okazaki’s award winning film, White Light Black Rain.” 


Ms. Sasamori was joined on stage by Hibakusha Stories co-founder Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, and Seto Mayu, a 3rd generation Hibakusha from Hiroshima.

Middle school students at The Calhoun School had a unique perspective before hearing Sasamori san’s testimony, as they had been studying about nuclear weapons and their impact prior to today’s program. Kathleen began the presentation by asking students to review their knowledge, ranging from which countries possess nuclear weapons, to how many times over today’s nuclear weapons could destroy the earth (at least 8). After Ms. Sasamori shared her powerful story, students asked many questions and were thankful to hear from a survivor that was their same age when she experienced a literal hell on earth.


Mayu then spoke about the discrimination that she and her family faced as Hibakusha, who were treated differently once it was realized that they had been exposed to radiation. She has been on the Peace Boat to join survivors in campaigning for a nuclear-free world.

As the presentation concluded, the school was presented with paper cranes, the Japanese global symbol for peace. Hibakusha will continue to share their stories at schools in New York City this week.


For a list of other events this week pertaining to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee, visit: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/npt/2014/calendar


This post was written by Trixie Cordova, Volunteer Staff at Peace Boat US.


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