I was not there seventy-one years ago today. I do not personally know anyone who was there seventy-one years ago today. No one around me who knew persons who were there seventy-one years ago today would talk to me about their stories… after all these years, it is all still very fresh in their memories and brings up feelings in them too strong to put into words. And every year on this day, I find myself once again not knowing what to say to properly acknowledge what they have gone through. So, once again this year, I spent the day in silence.
This year, the number of those who were there seventy-one years ago today that we have lost to date exceeded three hundred thousand. The average age of those who are still with us is now over eighty years. There are less and less who can tell us about their firsthand narratives of the initial terror of mass destruction, the fear of death soon after, and the never-ending worries of recurrent illnesses and deep-rooted prejudice.
But, for some years now, I have been sensing a certain change in their narratives. They still speak of the terror and fear and worries, but they also voice more their hopes. Hopes which have arisen from the fact that, for seventy-one years now, no one else have experienced the exact same things they have. And hopes which they wish to pass on to future generations and around the world to make sure no one will ever experience the exact same things they have.
Maybe the terror and fear and worries will never go away, until the very day their lives end.
But even so, maybe they found grounds for hopes to grow in the present they are living through.
And maybe, with the time left on their hands, they are choosing to plant seeds of these hopes to see them proliferate in our future, instead of etching in our memories the terror and fear and worries rooted in the past.
And maybe to a person like me, who are without words to empathize with the terror and fear and worries they felt and are still feeling, it is so much easier to come up with words in agreement with their hopes, and with specific actions to take to make these words come true. I feel that there are no other words that could evoke a stronger desire for peace than those coming from the persons who struggle with fears but have not let them take away hopes.
Seventy-one years ago today, a huge flame of fear swept away in an instant an entire city and the hundreds of thousands of lives living there. Maybe the actual fire was put out within a few days, but this flame of fear rapidly spread to cease fire everywhere else. I was not there and I do not know all the events that led to it, so I am in no position to judge whether or not this was right or justified, or requires an apology.
All I know is that, fear must not be the fuel in moving forward. It can blaze up, but it can burn out mid-way, or it can backfire. Instead, I think hope, particularly that which still remains with us among all the pervasive and persistent fears around us, is the flame to keep lit and pass on. Maybe it is still a small flicker appearing sporadically, but it can spark up from even a tiny fire in all of us, and it can continue to spread and shine with little feed.
Here is my torch with a flame of hope. Maybe you can take it, and pass it on to another? Then maybe someday, it will reach its final destination, the platform for peace, never to be extinguished… much like what I saw at the opening ceremony of the Olympic games last night.
Origami cranes became the symbol for peace for this day in my homeland, after a twelve-year-old girl from the affected city died folding them, according to a superstition we have that your wish will come true when you have folded a thousand of them. She folded them out of drug and candy wrappers… I tried it here, but it’s not as easy as with origami papers!
P.S. Congratulations on putting on a fabulous spectacle, Rio de Janeiro! Thank you for the thought your production put in to synchronize the choreography to our moment of silence. Good luck to all the Olympians… I look forward to your bright flares of athletic excellence keeping me awake all night every night!