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August 6th, 1945

Hiroshima, Japan

Thirteen-year-old Shigeko Sasamori was at school. The sky was a beautiful, clear blue, and the sun was shining. Looking up, she saw a silver plane in the sky: a B-29. Of course, in the moment, she didn’t know what that meant. Out of the plane dropped something small and white. A parachute, maybe. Shigeko watched as it fell towards the ground. 

Darkness. No sound. Her body numb. Mere seconds after the atomic bomb had been ejected from the plane, the city of Hiroshima lay in ruins. Thousands of lives ended. Many of them children. Shigeko saw people throwing themselves into a nearby river to stop the excruciating pain of the radioactive burns on their bodies. When her mother found her, she did not recognize her child, so bloodied and burned was her face.

Seventy-three years later, that same face looked out over a crowd of students at Booker T. Washington High School. It shared its story not from the perspective of a woman in her eighties, but from that of a thirteen-year-old girl who persevered after her life had been forever changed. Shigeko Sasamori is one of the strongest advocates for world peace. She is a “force of nature” who sees the beauty in human life and demands that it be protected. As she gave her testimony, she left the audience with a beautiful message of humanity when she said, “We are all human. When I smile, you smile back. We have different bodies, but underneath we are the same.” As a Hibakusha, the Japanese term for the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Shigeko has witnessed the world at its very worst. Yet, she still stands tall. “No more war!” is her cry to rally this new generation into an era of peace. As time progresses and the Hibakusha grow older, it is time for us, the children of today and the warriors of tomorrow, to stop fighting each other, and instead, begin fighting for peace.

It is our right to live in a world free of nuclear weapons. It is our right to live in a world free of war. It is our privilege to listen to survivors like Shigeko Sasamori, to learn how to better ourselves, and to make the future bright.