This Sunday in Oslo, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, will accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the organization. She will not be alone. Setsuko Thurlow will accept the prize with her. Thurlow has campaigned against nuclear weapons for seven decades, and she’s one of ICAN’s leading figures.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
She’s also a survivor. Thurlow was 13 years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on her city, Hiroshima. About 80,000 people were killed instantly. Another 80,000 would die later. That morning, August 6, 1945, Setsuko Thurlow had reported to work at a Japanese army base. I asked her to tell us her story when we talked last year. And just know that this story is graphic. It’s disturbing. But it’s important here again.
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SETSUKO THURLOW: I was 1 mile away from ground zero. I was at the army headquarter. And a group of us – about 30 girls – had been recruited by the army, got training in decoding messages. And we were to start the very first day as a full-fledged decoding assistant for the army.
MCEVERS: So you were called out of school to do this work.
THURLOW: That’s right. All the students were mobilized to do all kinds of work like that. And imagine 13-year-old girl dealing with very important, top-secret information.
THURLOW: That shows how desperate Japan was in the war. Anyway, that was Monday morning. We started having the morning assembly. And Major Yanai spoke to us and gave us a pep talk, and we said, yes, Sir; we’ll do our best for emperor’s sake. In that moment, I saw the bluish-white flash in the windows.
THURLOW: And the next thing I felt was floating in the air – obviously the blast of the bomb flattening all the buildings in the city. And the building I was in was falling, and my body was falling together with it. So when I regained my consciousness, I found myself in the total darkness and silence. I tried to move my body, but I couldn’t, so I knew I was faced with death.
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