Ground Zero

I have read the book ‘Hiroshima’ before. It is a compilation of articles about six survivors of the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city in 1945. The compilations were published in The New Yorker a year after the Americans dropped the atomic bomb.

When I picked up the book, I knew what to expect. I knew that everyone I was reading about was about the suffer immense pain and their world was going to change right before their eyes — without their knowledge or input. Their lives were no longer in their own hands. I always look at events like this and can’t believe I live in a world where someone made a decision to do this.

The book, written by John Hersey, drops you into the lives of these six people as they begin the fight for their lives. Throwing me and other readers straight into the chaosus.

Now, I have my own opinions about why I think the USA dropped the bomb that day, and it has a lot to do with guinea pigs. I have come to this conclusion after numerous politics courses and one documentary that focused on US doctors coming to Hiroshima not to treat patients of the bomb, but to study the after effects on the human body.

It is hard for me to look at this time in the world and judge since I was not alive then. I however am alive now. Therefore, I decided to watch and compare the book Hiroshima to Countdown to Zero.

Countdown to Zero is a 2010 documentary around the notion that we are living in a dangerous time for nuclear arms and that the only way to truly protect ourselves from a nuclear war, is to destroy all nuclear weapons that exist on earth.

The film looks at the nuclear tension during the cold war and then continues to look at in a post 9-11 world. It features interviews with former UK PM Tony Blair, former President of USA Jimmy Carter, former President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and finally, Mikhail Gorbachev, former head of USSR.

It starts off, and continues to display the words of John F. Kennedy:

“Every man woman and child, lives under a nuclear sod of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment, by accident, or miscalculation of by madness.”

The words accident, miscalculation and madness are always the last three words to fade out on the screen.

It then goes into discuss the current world political climate and the fight for nuclear arms to be used in the War of Terror.

Former CIA Cover Operation Officer Valerie Plame Wilson (you know, the known scapegoat who has a movie… think Naomi Watts… about her story) says, “if terrorists have gotten the atomic bomb, they would have used them.”

One of the most interesting points of this movie to me was that for a certain portion of the movie, atomic bomb and terrorism were used almost interchangeably. Almost that the atomic bomb is in fact a form of terrorism because it does not discriminate between army and civilian and is used to pressure or make political change. Doesn’t that sound like terrorism? It is therefore interesting that we then do not look at Hiroshima as terrorism. Our society has justified the attack by the war. But then again, as previously mentioned, the world was a different place.

I remember when I first read the book in class, my professor asked if anyone had been to Ground Zero. I automatically put up my hand because I had travelled to New York City and been to what I would refer to as Ground Zero. I was soon corrected. The site the bomb was dropped is also referred to as Ground Zero, but my generation does not know this. We refer to Ground Zero as the site where the Twin Towers once stood. We do this without thinking because it is important in relation to the world we now live in.

An interesting aspect of the documentary is that they tried to recreate what might happen if an atomic bomb were to hit New York City.

You see a light go through the city, starting at Times Square and a voice would say what would have most likely happened to those people.

Are they in the first five blocks? Incinerated. Where they looking at the bomb? You would be blinded.  Survive? Welcome to a world without power, where all the hospitals have been destroyed and radiation is now slowly destroying your body.

‘At a certain point, the casualties become so high that it’s pointless to try to make any sense out of it,” one interviewee says.

At one point when talking about what would happen if a nuclear weapon hit NYC, they reference the character Dr. Terufumi Sasaki from Hersey’s book, mentioning that the doctor at the Red Cross Hospital just turned into a machine of sorts, “binding, swabbing, daubing; binding, swabbing, daubing.”

They also showed how the Hiroshima bomb was made as well as video of the bombing, in its infamous shape, and the street after the bombing had taken place.

This documentary has a call to action at the end. They want all nuclear weapons destroyed.

One US aide says, “there are 182 countries that do not have nuclear weapons. They could have nuclear weapons. They have chosen not to.”

The quote mentioned at the beginning of this blog post appears on the screen constantly though the movie. At one point, it allows for JFK to finish the quote. He says,

“The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”


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