Atom bomb survivor moves campus crowd
Students at Saint Michael’s College were given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear from atomic bomb survivors Yasuaki Yamashita and Shigeko Sasamori the evening of Thursday, September 20. These Hibakusha (survivors of the nuclear attacks in Japan), are among the last living witnesses to nuclear war. They shared their harrowing stories with a full crowd in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall as well as a plea for the next generation to carry their words into the future and build a world free of nuclear violence.
Yasuaki Yamashita was six years old when his home town of Nagasaki was struck, his own house less than two miles from the epicenter of the blast. His father lost his life to the effects of radiation after assisting in the clean-up efforts. Years later, Yamashita worked at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital, bearing witness to the continuing pain of his fellow survivors while his own health suffered. Shigeko Sasamori was thirteen during the attack on Hiroshima. The blast left her hands and the front of her body so badly burned that she was unrecognizable to her family. In 1955 she was brought to the United States as part of a group known as the Hiroshima Maidens, where she received intensive restorative plastic surgery.
Their speaking engagement at Saint Michael’s, part of a series of educational talks in the Burlington area, was a joint effort by many organizations including the Diversity Coalition and Center for Multicultural Affairs on campus and several partner organizations of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The weight of their efforts was palpable among those in attendance. The survivors spoke with passion and students hung on to every word, ready to learn how to get involved in the movement for peace.
Other supporters of the program included the Burlington branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Youth Arts New York, and Hibakusha Stories; and from Saint Michael’s, Moise St. Louis, director of multicultural student services (who spoke during the program); Dean Jeff Trumbower; Laurie Gagne (long of the Peace and Justice faculty) Peter Vantine, Katherine Kirby and Fr. David Theroux, SSE, director of the Edmundite Center for Faith and Culture/Peace and Justice. John Reuwer, longtime adjunct in Peace and Justice at the College, also spoke and had a key role.