When I think of people disappearing, my Christian mind automatically envisions the rapture of the church, but there have, of course, been other times when people have disappeared, and some of them were utterly horrifying. One such horrifying version of people disappearing is the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have never been able to wrap my head around my feelings about the Atomic Bombs that were dropped on August 6 and August 9, 1945, respectively. Though we were at war, the Atomic Bomb seemed such an extreme weapon. Nevertheless, it was what was used those days to show that we meant business.

On August 6th, one of its B-29s dropped a Little Boy uranium gun-type bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9th, a Fat Man plutonium implosion-type bomb was dropped by another B-29 on Nagasaki. The bombs immediately devastated their targets. Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 people in Nagasaki…roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition, for many months afterward. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison. While the bombings were met with mixed feelings worldwide, the plan worked. Just six days later, on August 15, 1945, Japan announced its surrender.

The atomic bombs were successful, but as I said, my feelings were similar to the rest of the world’s feelings. The devastation from the bombs was unbelievable. Those who survived the initial attack died a slow death, and in reality that was the worse way to go. Those who were killed instantly, were in reality obliterated…they simply disappeared. As shocking as that was to me, what I found even more shocking was what was left behind. The atomic bombs basically burned a picture of the victims onto whatever was near them…a wall, stairs, or the side of a building. That was difficult to wrap my head around. When I saw a nuclear shadow of a child playing jump rope that was flashed against the side of a building, my thoughts immediately went to the fact that this child had no idea that his life was about to be over. I don’t suppose there was time for him to feel any pain, and that was probably the most merciful part of the entire horrible event.

The nuclear shadows were everywhere, preserved as vivid reminders of what had taken place. For as long as ten years, the shadows were still there. Then they started to fade. As buildings were remodeled, some of the shadows were removed at preserved in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. One shadow, thought to be the outline of a person who was sitting at the entrance of Hiroshima Branch of Sumitomo Bank when the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, is known as Human Shadow of Death. According to the museum, “it is thought that the person had been sitting on the stone step waiting for the bank to open when the heat from the bomb burned the surrounding stone white and left their shadow. A black deposit was also found on the shadow. A piece of stone containing the artifact was cut from the original location and moved to the museum.” Also, according to museum staff, “many visitors to the museum believe that the shadow is the outline of a human vaporized immediately after the bombing. However, the possibility of human vaporization is not supported from a medical perspective. The ground surface temperature is thought to have ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius just after the bombing. Exposing a body to this level of radiant heat would leave bones and carbonized organs behind. While radiation could severely inflame and ulcerate the skin, complete vaporization of the body is impossible.” Nevertheless, it appears to have happened, whether they believe it or not.

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