Setsuko Thurlow was 13 years old when the U.S. suddenly dropped a nuclear bomb on her city of Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
As she regained consciousness in silence and darkness, she found herself pinned by her collapsed school building and could hear faint cries of classmates, “Mother, help me. God, help me.” She heard a man saying, “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! Keep crawling toward the light!”
She was ultimately rescued, found her city obliterated with 70,000 of its residents — according to Richard Rhodes, “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” — who were incinerated, vaporized, or carbonized, including members of her own family and 351 of her schoolmates.
Among those details that she shared in a 2017 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, she also noted that still, to this day, radiation continues to kill survivors. She has spent her life trying to warn others of the atrocities perpetrated on Hiroshima.
In 2007, the International Campaign for the Abolishment of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was born from a proposal by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which helped to establish ICAN’s first office in Melbourne, Australia. ICAN eventually created an international office in Geneva.
ICAN ultimately created the “Ban Treaty,” or the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), an agreement that was adopted at the United Nations in 2017 and has been ratified by more than 50 countries. For years of activism and determination to alert the world’s peoples to the apocalyptic nature of these weapons, ICAN was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2017, which was jointly accepted by Hiroshima survivor Thurlow and Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s executive director.
LeRoy Moore in 1983 helped launch Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center after organizing the encirclement of protestors around the 17-mile perimeter of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant which is eight miles south of Boulder. Moore, with five other individuals, wrote the following note to Boulder’s City Council members about the responsibilities of all of us to “keep pushing towards the light!”
“On Tuesday, January 22, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force. We at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center urge the Boulder City Council to support this international Treaty and to call on other government entities in Colorado and across the United States to support the Treaty. It urges abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II made the U.S. the only country on Planet Earth to use nuclear weapons against another country. Rather than making more nuclear weapons and threatening their use, all countries must agree together to abolish them. Planning to use such weapons is folly which would end the human race. In the face of violence we must choose nonviolence. Can’t we see, it’s either nonviolence or non-existence?”
A deep bow of gratitude to LeRoy, Setsuko, Beatrice and the thousands of fervent nuclear activists throughout the world. We will all keep pushing towards the light, by bringing the Ban Treaty to all government groups across the country and around the world. Together we can push towards the light of a world free of the scourge of nuclear weapons.