John Hersey recounted the suffering and survival of six Japanese individuals of the atomic bomb in his book Hiroshima.
Each one came from a different walk of life. Their experiences of the bomb and suffering afterward varied greatly as well. But they did not allow themselves to remain victims. Through their suffering, they all emerged as people who actively sought to help others in need. Though all six men and women were greatly affected by the atomic bomb, over time their attitudes shifted from survivors to saviors.
On August 6th, 1945, to the shock and horror of hundreds of thousands of Japanese, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Many of the immediate survivors were in a total state of shock and confusion. Virtually none of them knew what just had happened. As told by the survivors in Hiroshima, there was death and destruction everywhere around them. Understandably, most of the survivors just tried making their way to a safe place to get medical attention. Very few were fit enough to be able to help others. The six people in Hiroshima were not able to immediately help others after the bomb. After they felt safe though, they began to help other people in need.
Miss Toshiko Sasaki was a young office clerk who was preparing for a memorial service at her company when the bomb hit Hiroshima. After being rescued, she was moved around to several different hospitals. After a couple of weeks, she was finally able to get treated for her severely broken leg. Even after several surgeries her leg never functioned normally for the rest of her life. Miss Sasaki did not let that hinder her from being able to help others. She eventually converted to a Catholic and dedicated her life to helping orphans. Her compassion for orphans helped lead her to run several orphanages. She was also very compassionate towards prostitutes and spent the later years of life focusing on caring for them.
Dr. Masakazu Fujii owned a private hospital and was sitting on its porch when the bomb hit. The bomb completely destroyed his hospital and threw him into the river the hospital was next to. He was severely injured and was able to help some people while trying to save himself. He ended up getting away to a friend’s summerhouse so he could recuperate and heal. A few years after the bomb he built a hospital where his other had been destroyed. He helped a lot of people there and saw about 80 patients a day. He was once selected to be a doctor that flew to New York to assist American doctors to translate for a group of disfigured girls known as the Hiroshima Maidens.
Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura was a widow with three children. She was looking out of her kitchen window when the bomb exploded and sent her flying into another room of her house. After the bomb, she struggled to get free from being pinned in her collapsed house. Amazingly, she found all her children still alive. In the bomb, she lost her home and her way of life. She borrowed money to buy a sewing machine and then got a job at the factory. She frequently felt exhausted and tired because of the effects of the bomb radiation. Despite all of that she worked hard to care for her three children. They all eventually married, had kids, and lived out modest and successful lives. She never let the effect of the bomb hold her down; she used the little strength she had to make sure she never stopped providing for her children.
Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest from the Society of Jesus was laying in a cot in his underwear the bomb struck Hiroshima. Immediately after the explosion, he made his way to a park that was full of other hurt people. After resting for a night he discovered that many of the injured people were thirsty. He went back forth to the park to bring buckets of water to thirsty injured people. A few years after the bomb, Father Kleinsorge became a priest of a large church and dedicated his life to serving the Japanese. He suffered a lot of health problems from the radiation he was exposed to. But he never stopped serving the people he loved until his finally would not allow him.
Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a Red Cross surgeon, was walking along a corridor of the hospital he worked in when the explosion happened. When he came to he found that he was the only doctor that was unhurt. Quickly after the bomb went off hundreds of people started flooding his hospital for help. Dr. Sasaki neglected his own health and fully dedicated himself to helping as many people as he could. Initially, he worked three straight days with only an hour’s sleep. His grandfather and father had money they left him. He used that money a few years later to build a hospital where he could continue helping people. As he got older he also became interested in helping the elderly and created very comfortable bathhouses for them. The bomb did never stop Dr. Sasaki’s continuous quest to help people with health needs.
Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Methodist priest, was in the process of picking clothing that was donated to help needy families when the bomb was dropped. As soon as he saw the flash of light he hid between two rocks that protected him from the blast. Afterward, he continuously helped people around him and did everything he could to help as many people as possible. Years after the bomb he founded a center for peace in Hiroshima. He also did hundreds of speaking engagements all over the U.S. to raise money for the Hiroshima Maidens and his peace center. Instead of being bitter about the bomb he chose to build friendly relationships with Americans and devoted his life to helping others.
All of these people featured in Hiroshima did not succumb to victim mentalities. They all chose to be people who “rose from the ashes” to focus on helping others in need. Whether it was a dedication to their own children or abandoned children they always sought to help and protect. They chose to use their status as survivors to the saviors of many.