British Columbia

Squamish, B.C., woman who survived Hiroshima urges world leaders to pursue peace

As U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un ramp up the rhetoric of nuclear war, an atomic bomb survivor living in Squamish, B.C. is urging the leaders to pursue peace.

'Humans should eliminate nuclear weapons with love and wisdom,' says Sachi Komura Rummel

Sachi Komura Rummel, shown here with copies of her book Hiroshima, Memoirs of a Survivor, says "I like to believe humans should eliminate nuclear weapons with love and wisdom." (Sachi Komura Rummel)

On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, eight-year-old Sachi Komura Rummel was playing with her friend in the schoolyard. Back then in Hiroshima, Japan, children attended school in the summer.

Rummel remembers how hot and sunny it was — so sunny that she and her friend were playing in the shade of a large tree.

Rummel says the shelter provided by the tree saved her from the blinding light of an atomic explosion roughly 580 metres above the city.

The explosion was caused by an uranium-based nuclear bomb dubbed "Little Boy," dropped by an U.S. bomber plane called the Enola Gay.

On Aug. 9, a second plutonium-based bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki.

The two bombings by the U.S., which killed more than 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

But for Rummel, the bombings aren't just something to be read about in a history book. For her, they're a memory.

Black rain

"Black rain began to fall. The rain was contaminated with poisonous radiation and black smoke," said Rummel in a conversation with Stephen Quinn during CBC's On the Coast.

"No one knew what had happened. Seventy per cent of the city was demolished in an instant. It was a really terrible day."

When the smoke and poison rain cleared, the sunny day returned. However now the sun had a tainted orange hue.

Rummel was fortunate that her home, which was only partially damaged, had a well in the backyard. From that well Rummel and her family were able to draw clean drinking water, something most residents didn't have access to.

Her father had been much closer to the epicentre of the blast. He returned late in the night and collapsed in door way of his home after making sure his family was safe.

In the following days, Rummel's mother kept her in the house most of the time. Rummel's father slowly died of radiation poisoning ten days after the explosion.

Rummel's family, like many others, didn't have access to a funeral home. One of the city's parks was converted into a place for cremation.

"In that park there were many holes ... There was wood piled in the hole and my father's body was placed on top of it. Gasoline was poured on top of him and the flame flew up high."

Rummel's most prominent memory of the tragedy was her crying out "No, no, don't burn my father."

72 years later

Rummel now lives in Squamish, B.C. with her husband. She sometimes goes to Rossland in the West Kootenay to babysit her grandchildren. She has told her story in the book Hiroshima, Memoirs of a Survivor.

She is concerned that recent rhetoric exchanged between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un is delivered without an understanding of nuclear war.

"I like to believe humans should eliminate nuclear weapons with love and wisdom," said Rummel.

"Everyone should have more awareness and not think this is someone else's problem, but our own problem."

With files from On the Coast