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Reflection on Hiroshima & Nagasaki

By Sister Ruth Mori

August 6, 2020, is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Sister Ruth Mori, born and raised in Japan, remembers the terrible devastation and fallout from the bombs. Her own family suffered great losses.


Thinking of Hiroshima, my thought goes to my youngest sister, Kayoko. She was born in December of 1945, four months after the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. She lost our mother, when she was 4 years-old. As the second generation of Atomic bomb victims, Kayoko has been deeply involved in the movement to ban atomic and hydrogen bombs. In spite of her health problems, she is still active as a leader in the Chiba prefecture region. I always admired Kayoko and support her spiritually. I am glad to see her daughter and son helping her in her work.

Sister Ruth Mori ringing the Bell of Peace located in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.  This park is located at site where the first atomic bomb exploded on August 6, 1945 and is dedicated to remembering the victims and promoting world peace.

In April of 1945, my brother and I went to live with our grandparents at a village three hours away from Hiroshima to avoid the influences of the war. So, we were safe on August 6, but my other family members were awfully affected. My parents were injured by the blast and radioactive fallout. My second youngest sister, Atsuko, over half of her body was badly burned. My oldest sister, Masako, was killed by the blast. Masako and her classmates were working on a community project before school started, when the bomb exploded. We never knew where or how she died. Our family suffered in many ways, but no one complained. As the weeks, months and years passed, we just tried to live as well as possible.

Joe O'Donnell's picture of the boy standing by the crematory taken in Nagasaki, Japan right after the bombs fell in 1945.

Last November, Pope Francis visited Japan, demonstrating deep compassion and healing. Prior to his visit, Pope Francis asked that all the people of Japan receive the photograph entitled, “Cremation Site,” as a reminder of the tragic results of war. He encouraged us to pray to end wars throughout the world. The picture shows a boy carrying his dead baby brother to a crematorium. This image was captured in Nagasaki by a United States war cameraman, Joe O’Donnell. I reflected on this picture as I prepared this article. Looking at the boy who endured suffering and sadness, accepting his responsibility to his family, I felt that I was the same in some ways.

I am thankful to Joe O’Donnell for his compassion and courage. I have read about one of his shocking experiences. When he was approaching the entrance of a destroyed church in Nagasaki, he saw a statue’s head on the ground. The toppled head caused him to stop, turning he followed the gaze of the statue’s eyes. The article reported that he was shocked to see the ruin of all Nagasaki city, and thought, what a terrible thing they did!

The Hiroshima Peace Park with the concrete archway in Japan.

He kept the films of his photographs for a long time, determined to develop them for his photographic exhibition so people would know the truth. At the exhibition, so many people stopped at the picture of the boy standing by the crematory. Among those who stopped, a young mother holding a child, cried in compassion.

Recently, I watched a video about Joe O’Donnell and the impact of his photography. Joe’s wife said that Joe wanted to run and hug the boy after watching his brother’s cremation.

Suffering and sadness are inevitable in our human lives, but I believe that God makes us with compassion and love. Through people’s compassion and love, we can be healed and have hope for our future. May the sound of the bell at the Peace Park, be our prayer for world peace and our trust in human beings.

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