Keigo Miyagawa, 89, was 19 at the time. “It felt like lightning. I saw this strong flash, and it was followed by this sound, and it swept me off my feet. I lost consciousness,” he recalled. “When I woke up … I was injured and bleeding.”
The U.S. bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon used in war, killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima. A second bomb, “Fat Man,” dropped over Nagasaki three days later, killed another 70,000, prompting Japan's surrender in World War II. The bombings remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged that nuclear weapons, which he called “the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity,” be abolished and demanded the creation of security systems that do not rely on military might.
He renewed an invitation to world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the scars themselves, during the G-7 summit in Japan next year.
“President Obama and other policymakers, please come to the A-bombed cities, hear the hibakusha (surviving victims) with your own ears, and encounter the reality of the atomic bombings,” he said. “Surely, you will be impelled to start discussing a legal framework, including a nuclear weapons convention.”
Many of those gathered for the ceremony renewed their calls for peace. With the average age of survivors now exceeding 80 for the first time this year, passing on their stories is considered an urgent task. There were 5,359 hibakusha who died over the past year, bringing the total death toll from the Hiroshima bombing to 297,684.
“My grandfather died here at that time and I keep wondering what he felt then,” said Tomiyo Sota. “He was still 21 years old and it pains me to think he died so young.”
Al Jazeera with wire services