The Hiroshima Peace Memorial

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking U.S. official to ever visit the A-bomb Memorial in Hiroshima. I am intensely proud of Speaker Pelosi – sad only that a sitting U.S. president has never made that visit, and hopeful that one soon will. … I visited the memorial in early 2002. The visit was a crucial element in my rebirth as a peacenik in the months leading to the Iraq war. … The memorial’s themed exhibit while I was there was in remembrance of the “Mobilized Youth,” the children who were working on war projects in Hiroshima when the bomb fell. The image above is a child’s uniform pieced together from scraps left in the blast zone. … The memorial was full of letters writen by the parents of these children who were working for their country far from their homes, many of whom lived a short time before succumbing to the effects of the radiation:

“Five or six of us pulled a large cart to take Naomi’s body back home. All the way back I was speechless, stricken by the horrible change wrought on her.

“Having fought many battles in China for four years, I thought I had seen the extremes of human misery. However, the heartrending sight of noncombatant women and children suffering tragic deaths was simply unbearable. The next day, in the midst of all the turmoil, we held a hurried funeral for Naomi in a crematory.

“We must swear in our hearts never to repeat such a tragic and pitiful war again.”

On one wall inside an exhibit was this poem, “Flower of Summer,” by A-bomb survivor Tamiki Hara (1905-1951):

“This is a human being.
Look how the atom bomb changed it.
Flesh swells fearfully.
All men and women take one shape.
The voice that trickles from swollen lips
on the festering charred-black face
whispers the thin words,
‘Please help me.’
This, this is a human being.
This is the face of a human being.”

Never again.

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