Last February, I had the amazing experience of being able to sit down and chat with a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The event was particularly powerful for me, a physics major, because I'm used to nuclear reactions being described in a monotone voice while I slowly fall asleep. Instead of a technical and jargonic physics lecture, I had an eyewitness, a man on the ground who described the chaos following the explosion in a deadpan, straightforward manner.
His name was Shitaku Kitsayahu. On the morning of August 6, 1945, he returned to his home in Hiroshima after a midnight shift. He collapsed into bed, exhausted, barely acknowledging the sounds of the B-2 planes overhead. They had been hearing planes circling for days, he said, in Japanese, but they only circled and left, so people no longer took shelter. Suddenly he was convinced he was dead. His world was black, dark, and there were strange and terrible noises. He called out his mother's name because she had died a year before, and he thought he would see her, now that he was dead. Then he realized that he was still alive, and the revelation shook him almost as much as the event a few moments before had. He could not believe he was alive. He pulled himself out of the house. He was relatively unhurt, and staggered into a broken, shattered city entirely different from the one he had exited when he walked into his house an hour before. He began to walk across the shattered landscape, and that was when the story really got horrible.
I'm not going to go into the gruesome details here, but you can read the article I wrote about it for the Times-Delphic
. I'm thinking about pursuing a string of posts related to nuclear weapons. It seems particularly timely, especially as the nuclear treaty is once again up for ratification in May. In the series, I'd like to explain in a frank matter how nuclear force is generated, and how in some ways it can be dangerous and in some ways beneficial. I would also like to examine the history of nuclear proliferation. If you ever get the chance to speak with a Hiroshima survivor, take it. You'll never be quite the same again.