A-bomb hypocenter, Nagasaki, Japan
The only thing that was left was a concrete pillar. A couple of feet high and a foot, maybe, round. Someone had written “center” on that pillar in charcoal — both in Nihongo and English. The land was flattened black for miles. A church in the far corner, a crumbling piece of a wall still stood. A couple of graveyard guardians. A row of lamp posts. Nothing else.
Where Hiroshima is the well-known, Nagasaki is the silent one. The small port town that holds its scars close to its chest. If you walk around the veins and arteries of its streets, you can happen upon them. Turn a corner and be faced with melted concrete, black dripping down the side of stone like ice cream down a cone. Metal corroded with rings upon rings from where it momentarily blistered and boiled.
There is a museum, a peace park, a statue — all like in Hiroshima. But I was the only white faced person. Little six year olds and high schoolers from the local schools on field trips leave the same braided peace cranes hanging on racks, not in row after row of glass enclosures. There is a rainbow tower with cranes people have taken the initiative to tape to it. A personal sign of promise. Quiet and reserved.
This is the Nihonjin way. The quiet and private path. Nagasaki screams of it — of the everyday suffering. The quiet lives lived under the weight of the second atomic bomb dropped two days after the first.
After humanity knew the horror it could create.
And we did it anyway.
And Nagasaki still, to this day, bears up peacefully under that weight.
I was buried under this quiet pain. I, too, could forget and enjoy the beautiful sunsets, the islands just off shore, the sea breeze. Until I would find a river wall rebuilt from rubble and ruin, standing now with only momentary stones of its original scars.
It would take my breath away in the worst of ways. Tears constantly on the edges of my eyes.
I folded a paper crane from page out of my Hiroshima notebook made of the world’s recycled peace cranes, mashed and pressed flat together. I wrote in erasable ink the words of a useless apology for what can I mend? On the insides of the same crane, I wrote my promise to be better than this, to love peace, to think.
That’s all I can do.
I turned and walked along the sea-line and found my way back to the city. There, I went about other things. Just like everyone else.