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Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivor Calls for Nuclear Reform at Kennedy School

The Harvard Kennedy School.
The Harvard Kennedy School. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

Keiko Ogura, 80, a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945, visited the Kennedy School to caution against the use of nuclear weapons worldwide Sunday.

Ogura was eight years old on August 6, 1945, when the United States dropped a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima during the final months of World War II. The bomb immediately killed over 80,000 people and caused widespread radiation exposure that would later kill tens of thousands more.

At 8:16 a.m.—when the bomb was dropped—Ogura said she was about 2.4 kilometers north of the center of the impacted zone.

“I was so scared,” Ogura said. “I was hit, pressed on the road, and I was unconscious.”

Ogura said she could not “forget the voices of the people dying.”

After staying silent for more than 30 years, Ogura said the death of her husband Kaoru Ogura in 1979 spurred her to tell her story. Her husband, who served as the director of Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum, spent much of his life setting up interviews between survivors, journalists, and psychologists to examine and raise awareness around the deadly physical and mental consequences of the bomb.

Ogura said residents of Hiroshima in part chose to stay silent because they feared that, if they told the truth about their experiences, they would be shut out by loved ones and by society at large. In the wake of the bomb drop, some cancelled engagements and weddings after discovering their partners had been exposed to radiation, fearful the exposure might lead to genetic defects in their offspring, according to Ogura.

“People tried not to talk about what happened, but we were horrified every day,” Ogura said.

Yusaku Kawashima, a master in public administration student originally from Japan, helped organize the event. He said the event in part came as a response to the recent escalation in North Korea’s nuclear capability.

The White House has announced that President Donald Trump will participate in a June 12 summit with North Korea in Singapore, following the historic April 27 meeting between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Trump, though, has said the summit may be delayed.

Reports say North Korea is planning on closing a nuclear test site this week as a “good will gesture,” according to the BBC.

“We are trying to make an opportunity for students or future global leaders to think about our core fundamental value of peace,” Kawashima said. “We wanted to show how cruel or how disastrous the consequences of war was over 70 years ago and, by expressing what happened in the past, people can learn what to do in the future.”

Ogura said she is “worried” she will never see a “nuclear free” world. Nonetheless, she called for nuclear reform to prevent a disaster from taking place in the future.

“We survivors work not to repeat the evil,” Ogura said. “Somebody who saw this evil needs to do something to prevent the evil.”

“Telling our story is, in a way, caring,” Ogura added.

Correction: May 26, 2018

A previous version of this story misstated the gender of Yusaku Kawashima.

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