By Doina Iliescu
Newton South High School Class of 2017
The rain poured down and the sky seemed permanently gray, as if it had forgotten it was ever blue, yet the city of Hiroshima went about its usual hustle and bustle. My host grandmother and I stepped out of the trolley and saw the first indication of the destruction that had ravaged this city– the A-bomb Dome– a hollow, pitiful skeleton, hidden by bright green trees.
Hand in hand, we left the ruins behind and my host grandmother dropped me off at the Hiroshima Peace Museum with the other exchange students. Once inside, we went to each of the numbered audio guide stops. I heard stories of missing daughters, of people who were no longer recognizable because their skin had burned off, and of the horrible effects radiation had on people’s lives many years later. One after another, we heard narratives of suffering on a scale I had never encountered before. With every passing artifact, I felt another stab in the heart. It was hard to fathom how humans could ever inflict such destruction onto each other. What was I going to do with all of these stories?
Walking home, everything around me was going on as routine: businessmen still flooded the izakayas (pubs), sunflowers were still in full bloom, and the night was still humid as always; however, I found myself doubting the possibility of returning to the normalcy I had known before. I no longer wanted to go back to my same old habits– hiding in my room from the problems of the world or hiding in my head from everyone I knew. I wanted to take a jackhammer to my nihilism. I looked at the buildings and saw the ruins that once lay there. I decided to go down to the river.
A peaceful cool breeze grazed my shoulders and the city lights sparkled in the darkness, reflecting in the river. The hum of the train passing in front of my eyes echoed within the river valley. The barriers around my heart slowly started to melt. I cannot do anything to reverse the suffering the people of Hiroshima experienced 70 years ago; however, I can do my best to live the life I have to the fullest by appreciating what I have. This very neighborhood was completely devastated years ago– bulldozed by an air blast of 10,830 degrees Fahrenheit to just rubble and dust in an instant. But in this moment, I can do anything. Breathing, walking around, I am alive. That day, I promised myself I would no longer let life idly pass me by– I would live a fulfilling life.
Fall 2016: life is beautiful, life is precious, and every day that I am alive is a wonderful day. Modern life deludes us into thinking that we may live forever and, consequently, that we can fulfill our life purposes with surface-level happiness. The A-bomb Dome served as a reminder to me that our lives are fragile, and because of this, our lives have meaning. We have to appreciate life and make the full use of it while we can.
I go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6:30 every day to learn with the clearest mind possible and make full use of each day. I exchanged handwritten letters with my friend for a year when she revealed to me that she was depressed. I tell the complete truth to everyone I know, including in my blog, to make someone’s life a little less lonely and alienating. I took the initiative to create my own hiking club and hike every weekend. I understand that clouds may come occasionally, but behind that thin layer of gray is always blue. There is no question I would make the same decision again– to transform my nihilism into hope, optimism, and an engagement with the world.