HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, laid a wreath on Friday at the site of the world’s first atomic bombing, which killed thousands instantly and about 140,000 within months.
Following are comments from people in Hiroshima, which was devastated on Aug. 6, 1945.
EIJI HATTORI, 73, SURVIVOR
“I think (Obama’s speech) was an apology.”
Hattori’s parents and grandparents, who sold rice near where the bomb fell, all either died that day or in the years that followed. Hattori, who now has three types of cancer, earlier said that an Obama apology would ease his suffering.
“I feel different now. I didn’t think he’d go that far and say so much. I feel I’ve been saved somewhat. For me, it was more than enough.”
TAKEO SUGIYAMA, 85, FORMER JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
“I was very much moved by his message, his message that people were having ordinary lives in Hiroshima 71 years ago just like we do today, and he is giving thought about those ordinary lives having been taken away.”
Sugiyama’s younger sister, then 12, died in the bombing.
“I hope he will do his utmost for world peace for the rest of his term. That action alone can prove he meant what he said today.”
MIKI TSUKISHITA, 75, SURVIVOR
“I’m afraid I did not hear anything concrete about how he plans to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. Atomic-bomb survivors, including me, are getting older.
“Just cheering his visit is not enough. As a serving U.S. president ... I wish he had been more specific and concrete.”
KENJI ISHIDA, 68, TAXI DRIVER
“A sitting U.S. president visiting Hiroshima is just the first step. We’re still 10 years from the possibility of a president issuing an apology.”
Born two years after the bomb was dropped, Ishida remembers growing up with bomb survivors whose skin was scarred.
“Japan has to apologize for Pearl Harbor, too, if we’re going to say the U.S. must apologize ... That’s not possible, given the countries’ current situations. In America, people say the war ended early because they dropped the atomic bomb. If a president apologized for this, it would raise hell in the U.S.
“We can’t tell North Korea not to have nukes when the U.S. has them, but the U.S. developed them first ... It’s not possible to get rid of nuclear weapons when they’re being used as deterrence.”
TAXI DRIVER, IN HIS 70s
“For 70 years, my family has been fighting with the risks of radiation.”
The driver, who was born before the bomb fell and declined to give his name, said his parents were irradiated. His younger siblings, born after the bombing, fear they may one day show symptoms.
“In all the years I’ve been alive, I’ve never once attended the memorial on Aug. 6 ... My family avoids thinking about it as much as possible, we’re trying so hard to forget.
“Many people in Hiroshima feel the same way.”
Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel
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