Written on: August 8, 2022
Thanks primarily to the efforts of Sister Rosalie Bertel, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart have long been opposed to anything concerning the use of nuclear power technology, especially in war. Sr. Rosalie was an international voice for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and was on the front lines of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986. We are pleased to share this excerpt from Jan Phillips’ book – No Ordinary Times- with you.
“In Japan, I was invited to speak to a group of A-bomb survivors at the Nagasaki Association for the Promotion of Peace and to present my slideshow, Focus on Peace. Before my presentation, the program called for us to watch the premiere of a Japanese film that included recently released American military footage of the Nagasaki bombing.
I sat in the back of the room with Mr. Matsunaga, director of the organization, who served as my translator. The lights dimmed, and the film began with a slow pan of the Nagasaki Peace Park. Paper cranes and colorful flowers filled the frame. Then a jump cut took us to the cockpit of an American warplane on August 9, 1945.
We watched the bomb drop. Watched the deadly cloud devour the city. And then from the ground we watched what followed. Mr. Matsunaga, his calm voice silenced, collapsed into tears by my side. The survivors in front of us sat still as sculptures. Frozen in time, they stared ahead, some gasping as they saw images of themselves on the screen, stumbling through the rubble of charred corpses. Dazed and burned, survivors were calling for families they would never find. Quiet sobs filled the room as we witnessed the rerun of a nuclear holocaust.
When it was over, no one moved. No one turned on a light. We sat there in the dark amidst sobs and tears. When the lights came on, and I was introduced, I stood before them and started to cry. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I’m so sorry.” Tears ran down my face as I looked out into the crowd of survivors. Their eyes, too, were full of tears, but they urged me to go on.
I spoke about the slides we were going to see, with Mr. Matsunaga at my side translating. Then the lights went out again, the music started, and images of millions of people marching for peace began to dissolve into each other. There were no words in the slideshow, just the pictures and voices from the International Children’s Choir singing Let There Be Peace on Earth. The images of colorful, festive, life-affirming demonstrations had more power that day than any I remember. Symbols of a commitment to peace washed over and comforted us. They delivered us, if only momentarily, from the fear that a nuclear holocaust might happen again, for how could these millions marching and chanting and praying for world peace not make a difference?
After the slideshow, the survivors came to the microphone one by one to speak of the impact the photographs had had on them:
“I did not know so many people cared about what happened to us…”
We thought we were all alone in our struggle… “
Seeing that so many Americans care about peace encourages my efforts…”
How can we fail if there are so many of us?”
After a heart-rending start, we found our joy together, made all the more poignant by the tears we’d dared to share.
We can’t articulate the way art heals us anymore than we can articulate the mystery of the cosmos. We are awed by the gifts of art, soothed by its music, comforted by its imagery, inspired by its revelations of the possible and the passionate. Art speaks from the soul, to the soul. It has a language of its own. It is the language of the universe, the music of the spheres.”
Previously published posts concerning the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: