Nobel-winning Hiroshima survivor laments nuclear ‘insanity’
OSLO, NORWAY: Setsuko Thurlow, 85, was 13 years old when she was rescued from the ruins of the world’s first atomic bombing in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
On Sunday she receives the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, along with its head Beatrice Fihn.
Here is how Thurlow recalled the horrors of that day 72 years ago, in her speech during the ceremony in Oslo:
“I still vividly remember that morning. At 8:15, I saw a blinding bluish-white flash from the window.
“I remember having the sensation of floating in the air.
“As I regained consciousness in the silence and darkness, I found myself pinned by the collapsed building. I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries: ‘Mother, help me. God, help me.’
“Then, suddenly, I felt hands touching my left shoulder, and heard a man saying: ‘Don’t give up! Keep pushing! I am trying to free you. See the light coming through that opening? Crawl towards it as quickly as you can.’
“As I crawled out, the ruins were on fire. Most of my classmates in that building were burned to death alive. I saw all around me utter, unimaginable devastation.
“Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing.
“Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air.
“Thus, with one bomb my beloved city was obliterated. Most of its residents were civilians who were incinerated, vaporised, carbonised –- among them, members of my own family and 351 of my schoolmates.
“In the weeks, months and years that followed, many thousands more would die, often in random and mysterious ways, from the delayed effects of radiation. Still to this day, radiation is killing survivors.
“Whenever I remember Hiroshima, the first image that comes to mind is of my four-year-old nephew, Eiji -– his little body transformed into an unrecognisable melted chunk of flesh. He kept begging for water in a faint voice until his death released him from agony.
“To me, he came to represent all the innocent children of the world, threatened as they are at this very moment by nuclear weapons. Every second of every day, nuclear weapons endanger everyone we love and everything we hold dear. We must not tolerate this insanity any longer.”