Hiroshima. As anticipated, Barack Obama didn’t apologized for the nuclear bombing of 1945, but his solemn visit to Hiroshima on Friday to offer respect to the victims who died in nuclear bombing, and the power of personal presence with act of laying wreath justifies his vision to embrace a world without nuclear weapons.
Being the first US President to visit the city where the first atomic bomb was dropped by US, Obama came to acknowledge but not to apologize for the act that many Americans see as appropriate to end the brutal war that Japan started years ago.
On that clear morning of August, 140,000 people died in nuclear bombing in Hiroshima, whereas, second attack took 70,000 people in Nagasaki three days later after which Japan surrendered.
“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.” In later remarks, Obama said that scientific strides must be matched by moral progress.
With a lofty speech and a warm embrace for an elderly survivor, Obama renewed the call for a nuclear-free future that he had first laid out in a 2009 speech in Prague.
On Friday, people lined streets as Obama’s motorcade entered the city. The presidential limousine pulled up behind the Peace Memorial Museum.
In the park, guests were seated just in front of the curved, concrete cenotaph that pays tribute to the dead with an eternal flame burning just beyond it. The Genbaku Dome, or A-bomb dome, the preserved, skeletal remnants of a municipal building destroyed in the blast, was visible in the distance.
National security adviser Susan E. Rice and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy walked out from near the museum, along with their Japanese counterparts, followed by Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Then Obama was handed a wreath, and he laid it on a stand in front of the cenotaph. He bowed his head and stood silently for a minute. Abe then did the same.
“We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past,” Obama said. The souls of the people who died in this city “speak to us,” he added. “They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”
Obama stepped over to meet historian Shigeaki Mori. Just 8 when the bomb hit, Mori had to hold back tears at the emotion of the moment.
Obama patted him on the back and wrapped him in a warm embrace. From there, Obama and Abe walked along a tree-lined path toward a river that flows by the iconic A-bomb dome, the skeletal remains of an exhibition hall that stands as silent testimony to the awful power of the bomb blast 71 years ago and as a symbol for international peace.
Bomb survivor Kinuyo Ikegami, 82 paid her own respects at the cenotaph early Friday, before the politicians arrived.
“I could hear schoolchildren screaming: `Help me! Help me!''' she said, tears running down her face. “It was too pitiful, too horrible. Even now it fills me with emotion.''
Obama went out of his way, in speaking of the dead, to mention that thousands of Koreans and a dozen American prisoners were among those who died. It was a nod to advocates for both groups..