Devastation and Peace: Hiroshima and St. Paul’s Chapel

Sometimes in travel, you can visit two completely different sites, at two completely different times… and the culminated effect just hits you like a truck.

In 2008, Andrew and I went to Japan.  It was awesome, and we can’t wait to go back.  I also can’t wait to tell you all about it all the amazing, fun things we saw and did while we were there.

But, there was one important, but not-fun thing we did, too.  We do those things sometimes… we visit the sites that are deeply disturbing, and devastating beyond words.

We went to Hiroshima.

a bomb dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome


Rubble of the Dome remains as it was in 1945.

Just days before visiting the city, I had caught a tremendous cold, so we had spent a day just resting.  I spent my time that day reading (from start to finish) John Hersey’s book Hiroshima.  I read about people with melted eyeballs, or people vaporized, leaving only their shadow on the wall… that, folks, is what an atomic bomb will do to you.  Utterly horrific.  And yet I also read about community, and simply how the survivors dealt with the overwhelming horror.  It was fascinating… inspiring… depressing… mostly horrifying.  I felt so many things about that book, and it was all so vivid.

And then, we arrived in Hiroshima.


A plaque marks the spot of the hypocenter of the blast.

The plaque reads: “Carried to Hiroshima from Tinian Island by the Enola Gay, a U.S. Army B-29 bomber, the first atomic bomb used in the history of humankind exploded approximately 3,000 to 4,000 ‘C along with a blast, wind and radiation. Most people in the area lost their lives instantly. The time was 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945. (View of the devastation looking north from hypocenter, November 1945. Photograph by U.S. Army)

before and after

We visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which I described in my journal as “intense… what horror.”


before bombing

Diorama of Hiroshima before the bombing.

after bombing

Diorama of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.

A few photos of the Memorial outside…


childrens peace memorial

Children’s Peace Memorial, surrounded by paper cranes.



These paper cranes represent prayers, or wishes, for peace… I loved how the entire Memorial was focused on the desire for world peace.  There is a peace flame burning there, which will only be extinguished once the world is free of nuclear weapons.  (So… probably never.)

You’ll notice there are no pictures of Andrew or I… not even candids of us walking around observing and pondering.  Nope.  We were very quiet for this day.  It was very heavy.  Really, so much to wrap our minds around.

This all came flooding back to me in the spring of 2010 when we visited New York City… and the site of the World Trade Center.

Here’s how it looked then:


We also visited St. Paul’s Chapel, which was a haven for all those working around the clock to rescue people from the rubble.  Since that time, it’s become a place for people to go to express their feelings about 9/11… so we went to visit it, too.

There were many personal messages, and messages of hope and support.  We ambled our separate ways to take it all in alone (kinda… in the crowd).

And then, I turned around and saw them: paper cranes… sent by the children of Hiroshima.

Just like that, it all came flooding back… all the horrific things we saw and learned about during our visit to Hiroshima in 2008.

Hiroshima… the city decimated by the U.S. in 1945.

And here, the children of Hiroshima had sent paper cranes to New York City, wishing for peace, after 9/11.

The heartbreaking beauty hit me like a tonne of bricks, and I was surprised by my tears.  (Mercifully, they have a LOT of tissue boxes just everywhere at St. Paul’s.)

It was enough to make me think that maybe… just maybe… that flame may someday be extinguished after all.



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