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70 Years Later, Remembering The Lives Lost And Shattered At Hiroshima

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On this day 70 years ago, the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. One hundred-forty thousand people were killed immediately and in the days and weeks that followed.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today a ceremonial bell rang at 8:15 a.m. in Hiroshima, marking the time American aircraft dropped the bomb.

BLOCK: When the Second World War ended, Americans were caught up in celebration. There were few reliable accounts of what had actually happened in Japan.

CORNISH: Nine months later, the New Yorker magazine sent John Hersey to interview survivors.

BLOCK: He wrote the story of six people recounting where they were and what they were doing when the bomb detonated. One of them was Toshiko Sasaki.

CORNISH: She was a clerk at the East Asia Tin Works. She told Hersey she was at her desk putting things away in a drawer when the room was filled with a blinding light. The building collapsed and Sasaki was buried underneath.

BLOCK: Rescuers pulled her from the rubble, and later in a courtyard, a man propped-up a tin sheet to protect her from the rain. Here's a passage from Hersey's article which describes the harrowing scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) She was grateful, until he brought two horribly-wounded people - a woman with a whole breast sheared-off, and a man whose face was all raw from a burn - to share the simple shed with her. No one came back. Before nightfall, the three grotesques under the slanting piece of twisted iron began to smell quite bad.

CORNISH: John Hersey's vivid, sober writing made Hiroshima's victims real.

BLOCK: The New Yorker sold out in a few hours. Newspapers across the country serialized the article. Albert Einstein bought a thousand copies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
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