She was two when the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. She appeared to have survived the bomb unscathed until diagnosed in 1954 with leukemia as a result of radiation exposure. Her valiant effort to fight off leukemia was matched with the Japanese legend that if someone made a 1000 paper cranes one’s wish would be granted. She frantically tried to complete the cranes but her total was only 646 at her death. Her classmates, however, continued making the remaining 354 cranes. At her funeral there were a 1,000 paper cranes.
In a larger sense, Sadako did not die. She instead became a symbol along with the cranes of the hope for the end of war and peace throughout the world. Her life and death should be a constant reminder of the true horror of war and the innocent victims of violence.
In one of the true ironies of human existence, the day the bomb fell, seventy years today, has been traditionally celebrated in the Church since the 15th century as the Feast of the Transfiguration. Many writers, theologians, and faithful believers have noted that on this day we are faced with two different challenges of faith. In the gospel story Jesus displayed his glory for only a brief moment, and then began the long journey that culminated with Calvary. In the story of the human race, a pilot got into a cockpit and unleashed a devastating weapon never before seen. One stories ends in the act of redemption, the other story begins with the death of 70,000 in a single flash.
Where the story of Hiroshima ends we don’t know. We do know that we have choices. Peter on the mountain of the Transfiguration says it is good we are here for this is the place where God meets the human race. The place where the human race meets the atomic bomb is not a good place. It transforms humanity by raising uncomfortable questions about war, just war, the destructiveness of humanity.
The Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, chair of Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons, wrote on another August 6 that “we remember a transfiguration and a transformation. Both came with clouds, blazing light, and sound. One brought death in a scope never before seen. But the other revealed a life even greater.”
We can go back to a more ancient time when God spoke directly to his people in the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.
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