“The day the first atomic bomb was dropped, it was a fine day,” recalled retired Bishop Joseph Noriaki Iida of the Diocese of Kyushu, Japan.
An exhibitor at Convention, Iida was a 16-year-old student at a naval academy 10 miles south of Hiroshima that day. Tomorrow, he will travel to Lyndale Park Peace Garden in Minneapolis for an interfaith service commemorating the event that changed his life.
Iida and other students were in class that morning. “All of a sudden, I felt like the room of the study was dyed purple, just one instant. It was like a big short-circuit of the electricity or a direct thunderbolt struck you without sound. Later, my classmates who were sitting by the side of the window felt heat on their necks.”
“After a few moments,” he continued, “a big great push of wind struck the building.” What felt like an earthquake shook them. A “very strange silence” finally broke with an announcement: “Abandon ship immediately!”
Through a stairwell window, Iida glimpsed the explosion’s “bubbling cloud.” When nothing happened, students left the underground shelter to watch the cloud become mushroom-shaped. That night, it became “almost pink at the bottom but purple at the top,” Iida said. For the son of an Anglican priest, it brought to mind “the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire” that led the Israelites.
It took him a long time to decipher why he equated those symbols of God’s protection with the mushroom cloud, Iida said. He finally concluded that, for the Japanese, who lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the bombings also provided freedom from totalitarianism, militarism, colonialism and racism. The bomb “was God’s judgment and God’s mercy at the same time.“I’m not affirming or justifying the dropping of [an] atomic bomb by any means,” he said, adding that God “can use not only the good thing but also bad things to do his will.”