By Kathleen Burkinshaw
Every year in May, 20 Hiroshima city employees gather at the Cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. After a moment of silence at 8:15am (time the bomb was dropped), they begin to remove the 114 leather bound volumes that now hold over 305,000 handwritten names of each person that was in Hiroshima that day and has since died (unknown victims also have a dedicated page).
I think of the compassion and reverence that these employees hold for the atomic bomb victims. They use white gloves to carefully remove one volume at a time, place them on a white sheet, and delicately air them out page by page. After that, they move these registers inside to be protected from the upcoming humid, rainy season. Lastly, they add the names of Hiroshima survivors who have passed away within this last year (regardless of where they were when they died). At the August 6th memorial service, they will return these volumes to again rest under the protection of the cenotaph arch.
I added my mother’s name to one of those leather-bound volumes in July 2015, when my husband, daughter and I visited Hiroshima six months after she passed away. As I stood in front of the cenotaph, I believed my mom had come full circle. She returned, in a sense, to her beloved papa, her family, and her friends. And yes, I felt the pain of the horrific suffering and loss that happened on that very ground, as well as in the years that followed for the survivors whether physical, emotional, or both. But, in my heart I also felt the strength of the survivors like my mom who kept moving forward when the world they knew ceased to exist.