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Friday, Oct. 19, 2012

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Survival stories: Clifton Truman Daniel (center) joins hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow (left) and Yasuaki Yamashita onstage at the Japan Society in New York on Wednesday. KYODO

Truman's grandson joins hibakusha in presentation to New York students


NEW YORK — Clifton Truman Daniel, the eldest grandson of the U.S. president who ordered the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombings, joined two hibakusha Wednesday as they recounted their experiences to hundreds of students in New York and called for a nuclear-free world.

"Despite my lineage, I had the same sort of education about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that all schoolchildren got in the 1960s and '70s," Daniel told over 200 New York-area high school students gathered at the Japan Society for a presentation on the attacks' impact.

"I really didn't understand the human toll at all," the grandson of President Harry Truman said.

Daniel then described his historic visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August to mark the 67th anniversary of the A-bombings, the first time any of Harry Truman's relatives had visited Japan, and his encounters with survivors.

"All of them said almost exactly the same thing, 'Please tell our story, please tell people what happened here so that it never happens again,' " he said. "I have since been trying to do that."

Daniel joined Setsuko Thurlow, 13 at the time of the Hiroshima strike, and Yasuaki Yamashita, who was 6 when Nagasaki was bombed, at the Japan Society as they spoke about their experiences in the immediate aftermath of the August 1945 bombings.

"I looked around and saw a procession of ghostly figures . . . they simply did not look like human beings," Thurlow, now a Canadian resident, told the students.

Thurlow described how "stunned" she felt to see her city utterly destroyed and how her "heart breaks each time" she tells her story. "I want you to know what we experienced and I want you to join in a vow that we will do everything we can to make sure no other human beings go through this again," she said.

The students also heard how important it is for hibakusha to continue retelling their stories to younger generations.

"My task is very important — to tell what happened (in Nagasaki) to the world," said Yamashita, an artist and ceramicist now living in Mexico. "We're not asking who is guilty and who is not."

Kiran Kaur, 17, said she was struck by Thurlow's "personal stories" of survival after the Hiroshima bombing and said she hopes to help pass the message to prevent another tragedy.

"I was really lucky to be here today," Kaur said. "I want to spread (the stories) to other people so that nothing like the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki ever happens again."

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