Written by John Hersey, this is a novel that speaks about the destruction and trauma that the people of Hiroshima had to face during the attack on Hiroshima. The main intent of the author is to rebuild the events of the day when it all went down through stories of the survivors. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the American had officially declared war with Japan. They dropped two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wiping out millions of lives in a snap of a finger, paralyzing the nation.
The American bomb destroyed 245, 000 lives in Hiroshima and John wanted to encapsulate the experience by revisiting the area and listening to memories of the people who had barely survived. The bomb had destroyed cities and the people inhabiting them; some who had managed to survive still live with complications due to the exposure of toxicity from the bombs. These complications also got handed down to the next generations, making the growth rate very stagnant.
At the time of the event, Mrs. Hatsuyo was observing her neighbors’ houses and looking after her children (little did they know that they would be buried under concrete walls within the next few seconds). Everything had turned into ashes. Miss Toshiko Sasaki, who was an office clerk, had been conversing with her colleague at work during the time of the attack. Within seconds, everything had shattered into pieces and she found herself injured with a broken leg, stuck under heavy bookshelves. Masakazu Fujii, a medical doctor, was busy reading on his hospital porch when an explosion that set him off into a river suddenly hit him. Another doctor, Terufumi Sasaki, collapsed on the floor and watched the smoke cloud of the boom shaped like a mushroom in awe from his hospital window. Wilhelm Kleinsorge found himself unconscious in his vegetable garden and upon regaining sense, realized his extent of his injury and the destruction that had followed around him. His catholic mission house was in shambles, something he never could have imagined to happen. The Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto was blasted between two large rocks and was hit very badly from a nearby estate. The moment of collision is the first phase.
After the survivors snapped out of their daze after the initial minutes after the bombing, the next phase comes with the rescuing of the loved ones. It occurred to the survivors that they would have to get help to their closest families and friends who might have been affected as much as they had been or worse, haven’t even survived. The immediate shock was hard to retaliate from but once they did, they searched for every means to get help to their kin. For doctors it was far worse than snapping out of phase one. They had to be ready, even as they dealt with their mental shock or physical injury, in order to be able to help out the people who were constantly rushed inside the hospital for immediate treatment for their severe injuries. Doctor Sasaki found himself bandaging 10,000 people who had to be treated immediately to stop from bleeding to death. Even though he himself was in a daze and was trying to match up with the amount of patients that had entered the hospital, he had to keep treating the patients one by one without failing. Doctor Fujii, who had been severely injured himself, chose to ignore his own pains and started to treat the patients who were seeking refuge in his hospital. He helped the nurses by patching up the patients and bandaging their injuries. Some of these injuries were not that visible but they were still there. Mrs. Nakamura kept on trying to save the kids from pain after they had been struck by falling debris. These children who had been hit by debris and were victims of phase one were shocked and in daze, unable to snap out that easily due to their small age. It was the kind of shock even mature humans took time to snap out from and they were, after all, only little kids. Mrs. Nakamura was successful in finding a shelter for all these children to prevent others from being trapped under falling debris and thus, prevent any further injuries. She had also managed to rescue a little child who was semi-conscious after being hit by falling debris. Miss Sasaki, after being hit by the bomb, became unconscious and was later found under a pile of bricks and debris. Being rescued after spending days and hours in the pile, she had trouble figuring out what was it that had hit her. Father Kleinsorge helped out by trying to rescue the people who were trapped under broken houses. He marked Asano Park as a safe place for taking refuge since it was an open field and help could come faster. Along with Mr. Tanimoto, he pulled out as many people as he could.
On August 6th, by the time of evening, it was getting more difficult for the death toll to be kept from increasing. The bomb had caused nuclear radiation that had infused with rain, causing it to spread even more, along with whirlwinds. The whole city was on fire, and nothing was left to scrounge up. The people with severe cuts and wounds, broken limbs and ribs were desolate in this situation as nothing could be done. Many of the doctors were giving up hope as there were too many injured people and too little medicine to be treated with. Hence, they decided to give up on the most severely injured ones, the ones who had less chances of survival and rather gave assistance to the ones who had more probability of living. Since everything was on fire and there was no place worthy of habitat, Mr. Tanimoto rowed a boat full of injured people to the higher lands. Miss Sasaki was moved to another hospital in order for her to get proper treatment.
A few days passed by as everything got back in place. However, nobody could get over the trauma and desolation that they had all faced and some were still struggling to recover from the initial trauma. On the 9th of August, another bomb was dropped in Nagasaki, killing thousands of people again. This mortified the people of Japan and soon enough, on the 15th of August, the Emperor of Japan had broadcasted to his people that Japan had surrendered.
Now, suffering from injuries were not the only problems that Japan had to face. The two bombs that had been dropped were both nuclear in nature, which means that both had exposed the affected areas to high activity of radiation. The level of radiation was not a safe range for humans to be exposed to. It gave birth to many radiation induced illnesses and deformations that had not been seen before in Japan. So, the survivors not only had to deal with their mental trauma but also had to confront their radiation illnesses that may prove to be life threatening. Dr. Kleinsorge rushed to the hospital to treat as many patients as possible. Miss Sasaki, who had been previously admitted to the hospital, was now depressed over how she had become crippled and will not be able to get her previous life back. Dr. Sasaki spent years in doing various tests and analyzing the conditions of his patients so as to be able to learn and provide better medical aid. Dr. Fujii also ended up opening a practice chamber where patients of different occupations visited him and he tried to help them as much as he could. Mrs. Nakamura, who had rescued injured children and gotten them to safety, was hurt herself. Both her children and she were exposed to extreme radiation that causes illnesses, leading to them to lose their hair and see various symptoms of unknown illnesses. Since she did not have much money, she couldn’t afford medical assistance.
“The Aftermath”, an additional chapter, talked in vivid details about the struggles the survivors had to face afterwards. The survivors and fighters of the radiation were called “hibakusha”. Mrs. Nakamura was successful in getting medical assistance for her radiation sickness. She was also able to get a job at a chemical company and put her children through school. Dr. Sasaki had become quite popular amongst the people he had treated, hence making a name for his services. His chamber became very well known. However, he lost his wife to cancer and he could not let go of the memories he had of the trauma and the destruction that followed the bombing. Due to his continual rounds to the hospital back and forth for years helping out people, Father Kliensorge got very ill. Dr. Fujii died from cancer himself after spending years treating ill patients. In the end, we may conclude that the aftermath was truly daunting for many and it had not been easy at all for the survivors to get their lives back on track.