The following is a reflection written By Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU, on August 6, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is also the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.
It is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb. I was nine years old when it happened. I do not remember every detail, but I remember that we were just finishing dinner when we got the news. I remember feeling so good about it because I had been socialized by the newsreels and general conversation to hate the Japs (as we called them.) They were cruel to our soldiers fighting in the Pacific! They had bombed Pearl Harbor! I clapped in the movies when a plane with the big star on its wing was shot down and plunged into the ocean. The dirty Japs deserved to be bombed.
We ran out into the street at 38th and Market and banged on pots and pans and ran around excited because we knew this was the end of the war…a war we all hated because of all the things that were rationed, especially bubble gum and ice cream, which were full of sugar, but which I loved.
It was not until years later when I was taking a class on peacemaking at Spalding University that I realized exactly what transpired on August 6th, 1945. I just never thought much more about it. But that day we were asked to reflect on our relationship with the atom bomb. For some reason that reflection touched me, and I found myself in tears. I got in touch with what we Americans had done; how absolutely unaware I was of the great number of people who were destroyed instantaneously; what a power for evil that was unleashed that day; and how I celebrated all of this on that day. And so, I wanted to cry out and say, “I didn’t know.” “I didn’t do it,” and “I am so sorry.” And I wept! What else can you do when you have those kinds of situations?
Some years ago, I went to the Nevada Desert to protest the testing of the nuclear bomb. It is unfortunate that those nuclear warheads still exist. Again when I was stationed in Omaha, we were near the Strategic Air Command base (SAC) and I remember that we had an extra prayer that we said at night prayer for our safety and for the safety of the country in the event that SAC were to be attacked. SAC controlled the nuclear siloes all over the surrounding states and had the capacity to call them up at a moment’s notice.
And now 75 years later, on this wonderful feast of the Transfiguration, I am aware of the irony of having this feast fall on this day or vice versa. What a difference both events made. Jesus was transfigured and His way of thinking about Himself changed. The world was transfigured in its way of thinking about war and destruction. And now I know that I, too, have been transfigured and my way of thinking has changed.
What has your experience been with the Atom bomb?