Then & Now
August 6, 1995
by Manuel L. Quezon III
I am become Death, the detroyer of worlds.
-From the :Bhagavad GitaÃ¢â‚¬Â
HIROKO Nakamura was five months old when an atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima. She was two kilometers away from ground zero. Her father was even closer -downtown with some friends. Her eldest brother was close, too; working in a Mitsubishi factory. One of her sisters was in school.
When the bomb detonated, her father was buried by the rubble from a building that collapsed. He cried out for help, but no one came to help. Eventually he managed to dig himself out. All his friends were missing. Later on, it turned out that they had all been killed. He made his way home, to look for his family.
HirokoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brother somehow made it home, too. But her sister was missing. Her father went out to look for her, and discovered that the school building had collapsed. Again, somehow, he found his daughter. Wen the bomb exploded, she had, instinctively, covered her eyes, but she was nearly blinded, and was terribly burned. He took her home and cared for her as best he could. There were no medicines, no water. The river that ran through Hiroshima was full of the corpses of the dead who had, in their agony, sought relief inits waters. And its banks were lined with the horribly disfigured, many of whom were dying.
When Hiroko and the rest of her family were evacuated from the ruined city, her father and edlest brother stayed. They wanted to help those left behind, and get on with the task of rebuilding. They rebuilt their home, they fed themselves by growing vegetables. They managed as best as they could, all the while unaware of the poisoned ground exuding radiation beneath them. For neither they nor anyone else knew about radiation or its effects on human tissue. And neither they nor anyone else knew that the atomic bomb, which had killed or wounded nearly 150,000 people -literally in the twinkling of an eye- would continue killing through the years, taking its toll among those who had considered themselves fortunate for having survived the blast.
The Nakamura family -10 of them altogether- were a fortunate family. They all survived the dropping of the atomic bomb. They bear the distinction of being one of the few families to have lived through the second Holocaust -for the death of a city by nuclear fission is the closest man has come to seeing what GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrath is truly like.
The Nakamuras lived in their reconstructed home for 10 years. They went on with their lives. HirokoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s father lived to the ripe old age of 81, finally succumbing to lung cancer. The other members of her family who have died also succumbed to cancer. It is chilling to note that Hiroko cannot say if her father, or the others who died, died of cancer because of the effects of the bomb or not. Even at the end of their lives, members of the Nakamura family remain haunted by what happened on August 6, 1945.
Hiroko herself eventually married an American, J. Marsh Thomson, and came to live in the Philippines. She is an accomplished artist, a painter. Her husband is a businessman, one of the prime movers behind College Assurance Plans. He is also involved in civic work. They have three children: Julia, the eldest; Joshua, their only son; and their youngest, Akiko, who as an athlete proudly represents the Philippines in sports events.
It has been fifty years to the day since Hiroshima was bombed. While Hiroko has found peace, and happiness, in her heart, one fervent wish still burns. That no other people on earth should have to go through what the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced.
When you clap and cheer for Akiko,remember her mother. Out of the rubble springs new life, and generations beget new generations; but the pain and the horror must be remembered, lest the young shed the same tears that their elders did.
Hiroko bears witness to a great tragedy -and the nobility of those who survived, and demonstrated that the things that make humans good are the things that prevail. She has taught her children that; and all who have met her.