Story of a Survivor

Courtesy of Claudia Cheffs

At the Global Zero event last Monday, May 21, Hiroshima survivor Shigeko Sasamori spoke about nuclear weapons. Presented by Cecilia Lynch, associate political science professor and Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies director, Sasamori spoke about global nuclear disarmament in Crystal Cove Auditorium, where the event was held.

The event began with a quick introduction by Claudia Cheffs who explained what the Global Zero movement is all about.

“There is a statistic that shows that $1 trillion will be spent on nuclear weapons in the next 10 years,” Cheffs said.
Global Zero is an international organization aimed at the global disarmament of nuclear weapons. The organization has many chapters around the world, and holds international summits in order to try and put an end to these dangerous weapons. Some supporters of the organization include Queen Noor of Jordan, President Obama and President Mary Robinson of Ireland.

As the 4-foot tall Sasamori was helped onto the stage, it was evident that she had been harmed by the blast of the atomic bomb. Her right hand was mangled and only her middle finger was at its proper length. Her other fingers were either curled into her hand or too severed.

Sasamori was one of 25 women who were lucky enough to receive plastic surgery from a specialist in New York. These women were known as the Hiroshima Maidens and received their reconstructive surgery five years after the bomb changed their physical features.

“We have to stop this nonsense,” Sasamori said. “People don’t know; I know.”

Throughout her speech, Sasamori told of how she is so thankful to have the opportunity to speak to students. She believes that they are the ones who will be able to fulfill her dream of ridding the world of nuclear weaponry.

Sasamori, 80, was 13 years old as the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated on Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945.

She told of the moment the bomb hit. She remembered the sky: the sun was shining and she recalled a silver airplane that left a white streak in the clear blue background. Sasamori remembered how beautiful she thought the picture was. She explained how she noticed a white parachute and then a strong force threw her back.

Sasamori told the silent audience how she was unconscious for a long time. Her entire head had been burned by the blast and her body was unknowingly being affected by the heavy amounts of radiation.

She described the city after the blast as a “silent, numb city.” Sasamori also told of her fortune of wearing two pairs of trousers on the hot summer day. She did not want her clean pair to get dirty on her way to school. The second layer of clothing saved the lower half of her body from matching the severe burns on her torso.

Sasamori explained how her parents were not in the city when the 16-kiloton bomb was dropped. They were, however, still greatly affected by the attack. Her mother was eventually diagnosed with cancer, and her father and sister both suffered the harmful effects of radiation. Although her entire childhood was ruined by the atomic bomb dropped by the Americans over sixty years ago, Sasamori is not angry. She expressed her fortune to be blessed with the many miracles she has been given. Instead of making her speech about hate for the people who called for the detonation of the atomic bomb, Sasamori looked towards the future in hopes of the disarmament of nuclear weapons. She does not believe that there should be hate in the world; instead, countries should come together as one big family.

“Together makes things successful,” Sasamori said.

She knows that the acts of a small group of people against nuclear weaponry will not accomplish anything, and thus Sasamori urged people to come together to join in the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons that are harbored in nine countries worldwide.

“I am thankful for your help and I am very happy to meet you [audience],” Sasamori said with a smile on her face.

Sasamori ended her speech by giving some advice to the audience of students and faculty in order to curb anger.

“Just punch the air,” Sasamori said. “The air doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Sasamori proceeded to demonstrate her famous “angry dance,” where she stomped her feet and punched the air.

Sasamori enjoys travelling to universities all over the country in order to stress how important the disarmament of nuclear weapons truly is.