Saturday, July 16, 2005
Hiroshima Survivor Tells of Human Consequences of Trinity Test
By Heather Clark/
Shigeko Sasamori hopes her scarred body and gnarled fingers will put a human face on the suffering caused by the creation of the atomic bomb.
The 73-year-old grandmother was a 13-year-old school girl when she saw the nuclear bomb drop from the blue morning sky over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
Sasamori traveled to New Mexico the birthplace of the atomic bomb on the 60th anniversary of the Trinity Test to ask scientists to stop nuclear warfare.
"I want to talk to their hearts and beg them not to do it,'' she said.
On that August morning in 1945, Sasamori said she and a friend were setting out to join a work crew that was going to clear a city street less than a mile from Ground Zero.
"I saw the airplane and I saw the bomb drop,'' she said in an interview. "I told my schoolmate next to me 'Look at the airplane, it's so beautiful.'''
Her 13-year-old friend was killed in the blast.
Sasamori then felt a force knock her to the ground.
"The next thing I knew, it's completely blacked out, like dead earth,'' she said. "I wasn't scared. I didn't have any feelings, emotions, nothing.''
As she sat up, she saw gray shapes of people moving silently through the lifting fog. They were covered with gray and black ash, their hair was burned and their blistering and hanging skin was visible through tattered clothing.
"I saw that everybody looked so terrible, just like they came from hell,'' she said. "No one was talking, no one was screaming.''
She believes now that she was in shock as she followed the crowd to the river to escape the burning city. The first sound she remembered was a screaming baby, whose injured mother was trying to nurse her child.
Five days later, Sasamori's mother, who had been searching the faces of the bodies that remained in the streets for her missing daughter, found Sasamori in a nearby school.
One-fourth of Sasamori's body was burned, her fingers were scorched to the bone and she had as many as 30 operations to repair the damage. Three years ago, she underwent surgery for intestinal cancer and doctors now think she has thyroid cancer.
Sasamori was one of 25 "Hiroshima Maidens'' brought to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery in 1955 by American editor and author Norman Cousins, who she describes as her adoptive father.
Eventually, Sasamori decided to settle in the U.S. where she became a nurse.
Sasamori, who now lives in Marina del Rey, Calif., said she is not angry at Americans for how World War II ended, but rather hates war itself and is saddened by the actions of those who made the bomb.
But Sasamori was upset about an event at the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque on Friday, which local anti-nuclear protesters called a celebration of the Trinity anniversary.
The museum advertised the $125-per-ticket event on its Web site as a chance to relive the drama, secrecy, excitement and awe of the Manhattan Project. Participants were given a secret identity at the door of the museum and were treated to food, a cash bar, a '40s fashion show, slides of the Trinity test and a panel discussion by historians and test participants. On Saturday, they were taken to the Trinity test site in southern New Mexico for a tour.
"Many people are dead. Those people's souls aren't happy. Why are you celebrating?'' Sasamori said. "You are making a weapon to kill us. So, I feel that's not appropriate to celebrate.''
A museum spokeswoman did not answer a voice mail message and no one answered several phone calls to the museum Friday.
On Aug. 6, Sasamori said she will mark the 60th anniversary of the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima with a more appropriate ceremony: a moment of silence in her home town to remember the dead.