- Why Tara
This article was published in the Riverine Herald.
By Australian Associated Press Newswire - July 23, 2022
The NSW students and politicians in front of the WWII Atomic Bomb Dome site in Hiroshima. -AAP Image
Scarred and haunted by an atomic bomb dropped by the US towards the end of World War II, Hiroshima stands as an urban testament to survival and resilience.
A group of NSW high school students saw the powerful site first-hand during a trip alongside state Premier Dominic Perrottet and Veteran Affairs Minister David Elliott on Saturday.
Year 11 students from across NSW submitted 1000-word essays that answered the poignant question, "Are the lessons of WWII still relevant today?". The authors of some of the best were rewarded with a trip to Japan.
Mr Perrottet, who is on a 10-day trade mission to Japan, South Korea and India, and Mr Elliott accompanied the students to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Hiroshima has the dubious honour of being the world's first city obliterated by an atomic bomb, after the American aircraft Enola Gay discharged a missile that killed 140,000 people on August 6, 1945.
The blast's corrosive after-effects lasted for decades, with radiation leaving survivors with withered bodies and tumours, and dooming descendants to numerous birth defects.
For Tara Anglican School for Girls student Ashley Kim, visiting the ground-zero site took on more emotional resonance as her grandfather was a survivor of the horrific attack.
The now 81-year-old was only four when he ducked for cover with his family.
"He remembers everything. He luckily came out of it pretty unharmed, which is incredible considering damage on that scale," Ms Kim told AAP at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum.
"He recollected the warnings ahead of the bomb and the countdown."
Surrounded by torn garments and charred objects in glass cases in the dark exhibition space through which dozens of visitors filed on Saturday ahead of the 77th anniversary of the attack, she found the museum an emotionally charged space.
"It's really confronting. I cried three times already and I'm really grateful that I have a grandfather-figure in my life," she said.
Even though Ms Kim's grandfather survived the full ferocity of the bomb that disfigured hundreds of thousands of civilians, he literally carries the trauma of the day lodged within his body, having developed a cancer from the heavy radiation.
Ms Kim said she planned to call her grandfather to "thank him for being so strong" adding that Saturday's visit was "an absolute honour" in paying tribute to his survival.
Japan and Australia stood on opposite sides during a conflict that split the Pacific during World War II, but have since become strong regional allies.
Clubs NSW is sponsoring the memorial tour aimed at expanding the students' knowledge of a violent period that threatened the world last century.
"There's a difference between reading about history in books and experiencing it first hand, and what Clubs NSW is doing is helping a group of young people experience history first hand," CEO Josh Landis told AAP.
Mr Perrottet acknowledged "the fragility of life" lost to wars and laid a wreath at an outdoor monument honouring the hundreds of thousands of Japanese victims in the Memorial Peace Park.
The next stop for the students - along with Mr Elliott and NSW Labor's veteran affairs spokesman Greg Warren - will be at the iconic US World War II site of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.