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Hiroshima: A Peace Committee Call for a Community Read

Posted on August 10, 2022, by Mary Ann McGivern SL

Photo by Bing Hui Yau on Unsplash

In 1946 The New Yorker devoted an entire edition to publishing John Hersey’s “Hiroshima.” Hersey reported on six residents. They were there in the city and, by turns of fate, they survived. This is the story of their suffering.

We’ve grown accustomed to nuclear weapons. The U.S. has deployed about 6,000, nestled in silos and stored on ships and planes targeting mostly Russian cities, but other places too. Experts say detonation of eight of today’s bombs would destroy the world. A small war between Pakistan and India would do it. U.S. retaliation for Russian nukes in Ukraine would as well. Israel, North Korea, China, France or England could initiate the chain reaction.

That fateful day, August 6, at 8:15 am, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk for a tin manufacturer, turned her head to speak to a colleague. Medical doctor Masakazu Fujii opened the morning paper. Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura looked out the window at a neighbor. Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge read a Jesuit magazine in his underwear. Dr. Terufumi Sasaki carried blood through a hospital for delivery to a patient. Methodist pastor Rev. Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto set down a cart of things he was moving to safety from the center of town, for fear of fire-bombing.

A year later, according to Hersey, while their lives would never be the same and they held different views of what they had experienced, they shared one perspective, “A curious kind of elated community spirit … a pride in the way they and their fellow survivors had stood up to a dreadful ordeal.” We readers share their pride in the human capacity to share suffering and sorrow, keeping a soft heart, offering help as best one can. The book invites us to keep a soft heart, open to the suffering of the world around us.

My innate belief is if people really talk about it [nuclear weapons] seriously and honestly and transparently, then they’ll see this really is untenable.

Archbishop John Wester

Archbishop John Wester issued a pastoral letter to his Santa Fe diocese this past spring. He called on his flock to talk together about the evils of the nuclear weapons because many members of his diocese that work at Los Alamos have a share in the weapons design and manufacture. The Loretto Peace Committee invites Loretto to read “Hiroshima” as a way to continue our discussions of the horrors of nuclear war and ways we might, as a nation, reject it.

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Mary Ann McGivern SL

Mary Ann is a member of the board of the Peace Economy Project and chairs Empower Missouri’s Criminal Justice Task Force. Additionally she serves on several Loretto committees. She is an editor of Loretto’s "Interchange" and the St. Louis Catholic Worker’s Round Table. She also writes for the National Catholic Reporter. She has been a Sister of Loretto since 1960.
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