Courtesy of the Wellness Center As we reminisce on our childhood, the thought of LEGOs comes to mind. The classic Danish toy has had an effect on the lives of children everywhere, allowing them to build whatever their tiny hearts may desire through interlocking plastic blocks. As a more hands-on approach, LaGuardia Community College’s Wellness […]
Sueichi Kido was five-years-old when he experienced an atomic bomb. Seven decades later, he’s still frightened.
Dressed in a gray suit, burgundy tie and sporting a blue pin, Mr. Kido enters Room 306 in the B-Building with an aura of wisdom. He is reserved and calm.
Students are seated to listen to a man their professors have likely referred to as an atomic bomb survivor. Mr. Kido prefers to be called a Hibakusha, a Japanese term for those who survived the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that occurred during World War II.
“I was five-years-old when I was bombed and I was five kilometers away from the epicenter [of the blast],” Mr. Kido says through a translator. His casual tone suggests he has told this story on thousands of different occasions.
Born and raised in Nagasaki, Mr. Kido remembers August 9, 1945 like it was yesterday. “All of a sudden, I saw this flash and I was blown away about two hundred meters.”
It happened so fast that he was unaware what was happening. Quickly surveying his surroundings, he saw the desolate streets. Instead of pedestrians, there were dead bodies.
Some students can hardly recall any event they experienced at his age, but a Hibakusha certainly does.
“Half of my face was burned.”
According to Mr. Kido, those who are killed by an atomic bomb can defy gravity, “The body is almost frozen and burned.” A motionless limb can hang or freeze in the air, serving as an extension of the charcoaled body.
He found out that he had been bombed seven years later.
Since the United States occupied Japan until 1952 after the war had ended, the Japanese were disallowed from “discovering the aftermath and the effect of the radiation,” according to Mr. Kido.
Soon, Mr. Kido decided to stop being a victim and sought to be an activist instead, joining the Nihon Hidankyo in 1956, which is now a Japanese confederation of organizations for atomic and hydrogen bomb sufferers. He currently serves as Secretary General.
Working closely with the United Nations, their ultimate objective has been to ban nuclear weapons around the world by spreading the stories of Hibakusha like Mr. Kido. By personalizing the damaging impact of nuclear destruction, they hope to convince those who currently hold nuclear weapons to abandon them.
Mr. Kido and his organization were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, “If I receive it tomorrow, I’ll be very happy. This organization is really built by volunteers. They don’t get paid. It will give them more recognition and acclaim, which will lead to more money. The world has recognized what we’re doing.”
Ultimately, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (iCAN), an organization that works with Nihon Hidankyo.
Jihai Shao, a Human Services major at LaGuardia Community College, remarked on the fear that comes with a potential nuclear threat: “It’s kind of scary. I think people have to learn something from past experience.”
Lu Chu, a Liberal Arts: Social Science and Humanities major, feels Mr. Kido is “very motivational and inspirational. The image is very powerful”
Kyoko Toyama, who translated for Mr. Kido and is an associate professor of Japanese and a counselor for College Discovery at LaGuardia, did not hear about the Hibakusha stories until she came to the United States: “In class, no teacher talked about it. Information is power but authority, sometimes, puts the information in a jar and puts a lid on it.”
An organizer of the Nuclear Proliferation Review Conference and involved with the issue of nuclear arms for almost 30 years, she cites Mr. Kido’s humility and peacefulness: “He doesn’t try to convince. He doesn’t come across as a sad or angry person. He wants this story to be heard by ordinary people because you can get the piece of what he was talking about and connect with your life, too.”
Seventy-two years have passed since Nagasaki was the recipient of an atomic bomb. Mr. Kido’s fear remains: “I do not feel safe. I am still anxious, even until this day.”