Hiroshima survivor recalls horrors

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Takashi Tanemori has seen the ravages of war like few living people have. On Friday, the 77-year-old Hiroshima survivor is coming to Petaluma High School with a message of peace.

The talk — hosted by History Connected, a local group whose mission is “to share, understand and learn about history from those who lived it” — is sold out, with standing room only in the PHS library.

According to History Connected, “Tanemori is one of the few living survivors of the Aug. 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

As a child he stood in terror as the light of the blast filled his eyes, and the heat burned his face. Suddenly he was alone, faced with the death of both of his parents and two sisters due to the effects of the bomb.”

Tanemori himself described the blast to a Las Vegas newspaper in 2008: “That very moment, the flash came. It was pure white. I covered my eyes, but saw the bones of my fingers, just like you see an X-ray.”

The boy, only 8 years old, was less than a mile from ground zero. He somehow survived as the schoolhouse collapsed around him.

In the ensuring days he stayed alive by picking through the rubble for food. He was later taken to the United States, where researchers used him as a “guinea pig” to study the effects of atomic radiation.

It was not until years later — following the loss of his homeland, the pain of discrimination, time in a psychiatric ward and a teenage suicide attempt — that Tanemori found peace letting go of the past.

Joe Noriel of History Connected said Tanemori’s presentation on Friday, Jan. 23 is “the best lesson (students) may ever get in a powerful story of forgiveness.”

Today, Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori is an artist and poet of renown and the author of “Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness.”

After decades of hate and thoughts of revenge, he has dedicated his life to promoting harmony and accepting, in his own words, “darkness and light, war and peace, love and hate.”

He has appeared internationally on television and radio programs to discuss cultural sensitivity and diversity, and served as a consultant to the California State Agricultural Department. He also founded a group, Silkworm Peace Institute, which promotes cultural understanding by highlighting stories similar to Tanemori’s as well as highlighting tales of those people who learned to transform hatred and revenge into peace and forgiveness.

Friday’s late-morning event will include a city proclamation honoring Tanemori’s achievements to be read by Mayor David Glass. Members of the Sonoma County Japanese American Citizen League also will be in attendance.

For more on History Connection, email historyconnected@gmail.com or visit www.historyconnection.net.

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