I can think of quite a few situations which have caught me by surprise and touched me very deeply. I’d like to share just two such moments with you because they relate to the 2nd and 6th of August.
On the 2nd of August 1975, our first child was born. It was in the days when fathers weren’t allowed in the delivery room and had to wait outside. I remember the nurse striding through the double doors but not much of what she said to me. She took my arm and bustled me into the recovery ward where I was handed a baby wrapped in a white blanket. Julia was being looked after and there I stood like a shag on a rock awkwardly holding my son. I had never held a baby before. A different nurse came over to me and helped me adjust my arms so that I could cradle him and look at his face. I have never forgotten that moment. Even now, though he is a strapping 45 year old lawyer, when I look at him I can still see the face of the child on the day of his birth.
4 days later I was watching a news item about the 30th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. It’s a moment in history that has embedded itself in my memory and it’s a moment that I hope we never forget.
20 years later in 1995, one of the survivors published a book. Until that time many survivors had been too ashamed to talk about the experience. Feeling guilty for having lived through such an experience when so many of their family and friends did not. The picture below is a rather tragic artefact from that moment, and here’s the story behind it. It’s a bit harrowing, but that’s the point.
The book ‘Shin’s Tricycle’ describes what happened to a 3-year-old boy named Shinichi Tetsutani. It’s narrated by Shin’s father, Nobuo Tetsunani, who describes the morning shortly before the attack as a calm and sunny day. “The air was filled with the sandpapery sounds of cicadas rubbing their legs together in the nearby trees.” Shin and his best friend, a girl named Kimi, were outside the family’s home, playing with his favourite toy – a tricycle with red handlebars.
At 8:15 a.m., the bomb detonated. And everything changed.
The blast collapsed the house, creating an “explosion so terrible, a flash so blindingly bright. I thought the world had ended. Then, just as quickly, everything went black.”
Shin was missing in the chaos immediately following the attack. His family frantically searched for him among the wreckage of his destroyed home. They found Shin pinned under a house beam, badly hurt. “His face was bleeding and swollen.” “He was too weak to talk but his hand still held the red handlebar grip from his tricycle. Kimi was gone, lost somewhere under the house.”
The family joined other neighbourhood survivors along a nearby riverbank. “It was a horrible sight,” the book said. “Everyone was burned, and they were crying moaning and screaming for water.”
“‘Water, I want water,’ pleaded Shin in a faint voice. I wanted to help him so much,” his father said in the book.
“All around, people were dying when they drank water. So I didn’t dare give him any.”
Shin did not survive the night.
After his son died, Shin’s father couldn’t bare to leave the boy’s body in a lonely graveyard. So the family buried Shin in their backyard, along with his friend Kimi and his beloved tricycle.
In 1985, 40 years later, Shin’s father decided to move his son’s remains to the family gravesite. He and Kimi’s mother helped unearth the backyard grave. There, according to the book, they saw “the little white bones of Kimi and Shin, hand in hand as we had placed them.”
Shin’s father had all but forgotten about the tricycle. But there it was.
Lifting it out of the grave, he said: “This should never happen to children. The world should be a peaceful place where children can play and laugh.”
The next day Shin’s father donated the trike to the museum.
There, the legacy of a 3-year-old boy continues to remind future generations of the horrors of nuclear destruction.
Even though we are going through what feels like a very bleak time, nothing compares to this moment at 8.15 am on Monday 6 th August 1945. A moment I hope we never forget.