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Showing Hiroshima's Reality

Chie Yamagishi

Delegates from around the world are preparing to wrap up 4 weeks of talks on how to make the world a safer place. They've been taking part in the United Nations' review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And joining them in New York was one man who knows better than most about the horrors of nuclear warfare. He survived the Hiroshima bombing and is now helping people understand just how devastating it was.

An international audience came together in the United Nations to see graphic evidence of an atomic bomb attack. It was a film produced by Masaaki Tanabe, "What Happened That Day? -Hiroshima's Appeal-".

Tanabe was born and raised in a house next to the building now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome. He lost his parents and a brother to the attack when he was seven. Tanabe was outside the city at the time. Two days later, he went back, but things would never be the same. For a while, he tried to shut out the painful memories.

When Tanabe turned 60, he changed his mind. He felt the need to pass down to future generations what ground zero used to look like. He used computer graphics to recreate the streets and houses before the bomb detonated.

His documentary films have been screened abroad. He realized that many people didn't know about the consequences of the bombing.

"In reality, a large number of civilians were sacrificed and subjected to suffering, but many people don't realize this," he says.

Tanabe thought hard about how to make sure the facts were understood. He interviewed former residents to learn more about what they had experienced. Creating the film took five years.

At last, it was ready for viewing in at the UN in New York.

In the film, Tanabe depicts the daily lives of people in Hiroshima before the tragedy. In addition to computer graphics, he included videos, drawings and photos he collected. The film shows the morning of August 6th, 1945, when the bomb was dropped.

Drawings by survivors in the film show the agony they witnessed. Tanabe's own recollections are also included. The film portrays images of the aftermath. A baby suckling his dead mother. A young woman singing a lullaby with her burned baby in her arms. Details like these have stayed with survivors over the years.

In the film, survivor Tsuneo Kasai recalls, "A mother was burned black from the neck up."

Another survivor, Junko Oota, says through tears, "I saw my father cry for the first time. Holding my mother's bones, he said, 'It must've been so hot!'"

By the time the film had ended, viewers felt a connection with those who made it through the bombing.

Viewers could share their thoughts with Tanabe after the film.

One from the UK commented, "It is so important that people actually emotionally feel the tragedy."

Another from the US said, "With your struggle, you have created a document that is so important for everyone in the world to see."

"Thank you very much, I remember, always, thank you," Tanabe replies.

"I feel a sense of accomplishment," Tanabe says. "In this special environment at the United Nations, I could feel that people understood what I wanted to convey."

Tanabe hopes people everywhere will think and act in ways to create a world free from wars and nuclear weapons.

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