Friday, August 07, 1998

Hiroshima survivor shares memories at anniversary, Chicago Maroon News Articles

Hiroshima survivor shares memories at anniversary
Pamela Jane Appea
University Wire
(Chicago Maroon)

CHICAGO, Ill. -- One pleasant summer day, nine-year-old Hideko Tamura said goodbye to her mother, who was going to the center of town to run some errands.

Before Mrs. Tamura walked out the door, she turned to her daughter and said, "I'll be back before lunch time."

That was the last time Hideko saw her mother.

On that day, August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Thousands of people died in the intense inferno in the center of town.

Hideko Tamura Snyder, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, gave a lecture Thursday as part of the 53rd commemoration of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb.

The Illinois Peace Action (IPA) sponsored the event, which took place at the Henry Moore Nuclear statue on Ellis Avenue between 56th and 57th streets.

Over 70 community residents and students attended.

The organization aims to bring about the elimination of nuclear weapons across the world. IPA has hosted a commemoration of the bombing at Hiroshima at the site of the Henry Moore statue for the past 25 years, said Bernice Bild, the former director of IPA and a Hyde Park resident.

This marks the first time that Snyder has spoken at the site of the Henry Moore statue.

In the 1940s, Chicago scientists participated in a collective effort called the Manhattan Project, a think tank that helped create the nuclear bomb.Snyder took members of the audience back to World War II, and related her experiences as a young girl.

"Fifty-three years ago my life changed, my city disappeared," Snyder said to the audience.

On that day, Snyder lost not only her mother but a cousin who Snyder said was like a brother to her.

According to Snyder, when she and other people went out to find their relatives, they were greeted with chaos and despair."From rescue station to rescue station, I hummed my mother's favorite song, hoping [to find my mother]," she said.

Snyder said that she hoped that her mother did not have a painful death.

"I saw a girl who was too weak to walk, who was asking for water, softly, please give me water," she said.

"With the burning and the heat of a 1,000 suns, our bodies melted. Our bodies were naked. People's skin hung like rags with our insides showing. That was truly naked. It was the most terrifying experience" she said.

In addition to the harm the atomic bomb had on the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Snyder stated that the water, plants, grass were affected by radiation.

"The people who ate the vegetables and drank the water had a terrible time and died. The water in Nagasaki was contaminated for over 32 years.

"If it takes us 100 years, or more, we must work together eliminating such lethal, lethal machinery. The bomb is so counter to civilization, it is so counter to human life. We are so easily swayed by arguments for defense. How absurd it was for human beings to be killed and perish in this fashion." she said.

Activist musicians performed before and after Snyder's talk.

Kevin Martin, executive director of IPA, spoke of current issues on nuclear energy. "The U of C astrophysics department has a computerized nuclear testing system which they use to continue nuclear capability," he alleged.

He went on to suggest that this information on nuclear energy is used by the U.S. Department of Defense."It is very important to remember what happened 53 years ago. It is important to rededicate ourselves to make sure that it never happens again," said Martin.

"I have a long term commitment to anti-nuclear activity," said Ron Chew, a Vietnam war veteran and longtime IPA member living in Oak Park, Illinois.

"[Hideko Tamura] was so authentic and you could just feel her experience. It was the most heart warming and heart wrenching talk of who we so loosely deal with nuclear energy," he said.

Snyder is currently a psychotherapist and social worker for radiation patients in the Chicago Hospitals.

She is the author of One Sunny Day: A Child's Memories of Hiroshima.