VIOLET MENGO, Nagasaki
THE bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki on the morning of August 9, 1945, killed about 74,000 people, about half as many as those who died in the bombing of Hiroshima three days earlier.
When US President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May, becoming the first sitting American President, since the end of World War II to do so, he told the audience, which included survivors of Americaâ€™s atomic bombing, that technology as devastating as nuclear arms demands a â€œmoral revolutionâ€.
â€œSeventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed,â€ Mr Obama said.
When this writer recently visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, courtesy of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), she was given the opportunity to appreciate the experience, pain and anguish that many of the Japanese and other nationals experienced seven decades ago.
Nagasaki, situated on the west coast of Kyushu, Japanâ€™s third largest island, southwest of the main island Honshu, was devastated by the second atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan.
Of course, invoking Hiroshima has become somewhat the universal shorthand for the horrors of nuclear war, and Nagasaki has mostly lived in the other cityâ€™s shadow.
But just like Hiroshima, life will never be the same for the people of Nagasaki.
It is said that since 1942, a secret US weapons programme, called the Manhattan Project, had been at work on two revolutionary bombs of such intense heat and explosive force that they would reduce the two target cities â€“ Hiroshima and Nagasaki â€“ to vast scorched wastelands.
This, according to some studies that have been produced, was aimed at enforcing an unconditional surrender on Japan with no advance warning issued.
Indeed, six days later, Japan surrendered and the Pacific War was over.
But lives were already lost, property seriously damaged; it should not have happened and should never be considered ever.
While in Nagasaki, this writer learnt of the gravity of the sacrifices and hardships that the Japanese people went through as a result of the atomic bomb on their soil.
Even the people who managed to survive were left with indelible mental and physical scars and with disorders due to radiation.
Seeing from the damages caused by the atomic bomb â€“ to humanity, property, soil, vegetation and wildlife â€“ it is a no brainer that everyone should be working at creating a better world for all.
Fortunately, some lessons have been learnt including by the US.
In his speech after laying a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Mr Obama said the bombing of Hiroshima demonstrated that â€œmankind possessed the means to destroy itself.â€
â€œThe world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peaceâ€¦ What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening,â€ he said.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is located close to Nagasaki Peace Park and next to the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for atomic bomb victims, which opened in 2003.
The museum exhibits extensive materials, both print and reproductions, on the actual bombing and latest nuclear weapons, aiming to contribute to the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realisation of lasting world peace.
The Peace Memorial Hall provides a place to pray for those who died after exposure to the atomic bombings, and to encourage people to contemplate peace.
The museum also maintains archives of materials on the atomic bombings and radiation illnesses, and serves as a centre of international cooperation and exchange.
The museum and the peace memorial hall were built to impress upon people the preciousness of the sacrifices made by those who died after exposure to the bombings, and to commemorate everlasting peace.
The museum covers the history of the atomic bomb event in the accessible form of a story.
It begins with the disastrous scene of the attack and includes the events leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb, the reconstruction of Nagasaki up to the present day, the history of nuclear weapons development, and the hope for a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum building was opened in 1996 to replace an earlier one built in 1955.
There are four main sections in the museum; the first introduces the city and culture of Nagasaki just before the bomb struck, the second concentrates on the damage caused by the bombing, the third section places in context the issues of war and atomic weapons, and the last section is a video room showing documentary movies related to the atomic bombing.
There are also lecture halls where survivors of the attack give presentations of their experiences and conferences are held.
Photographs, documents and original objects showing the damage are displayed and can be very upsetting, especially for young children.
The graphic images show the damage caused by the heat and the subsequent fires after the explosion in Nagasaki. The Uramaki Cathedral, Nagasaki Prison and the Iwakawa-machi area are all shown in ruins.
Among the many original objects on display are melted coins, twisted school staircases, scorched stones and burnt clothing, all testifying to the havoc caused by the tremendous heat and blast of the explosion.
The wall clock displayed right at the entrance of the museum was found in a house near Sannno Shinto in Sakamoto-machi about 800 meters from the hypocentre. The clock was shattered by the blast and its hands stopped at 11:02 – the time of the blast.
When the atomic bomb exploded, thousands of people suffered terrible burns and died begging for water.
Nagasaki City, the National Council for World Peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons constructed the Fountain of Peace with donations received from all over Japan.
The Fountain of Peace is dedicated as an offering of water to the victims of the bomb and a prayer for the repose of their souls.
In honour of the departed, it was my pleasure to visit and pay my tribute to those who died due to exposure to the atomic bombings.
Chilling effect after a visit to Nagasaki
VIOLET MENGO, Nagasaki