Tsugio Ito (81), who lives in Aki Ward, Hiroshima City, lost his elder brother in the atomic bombing and his eldest son in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Ito was invited to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in connection with President Obama’s visit. “Some observers point out that the president did not apologize or present a concrete plan [to eliminate nuclear weapons],” Ito said in the morning of May 28, recalling the president’s statement. “But the president’s shaking hands with hibakusha was a symbolic event toward realizing the world nuclear weapons.”
Ito, who lost his elder brother in the atomic bombing, was exposed to radiation from the A-bomb. His eldest son Kazushige, a bank clerk (then 35 years old), was at the World Trade Center in New York when an airplane crashed into the building on September 11, 2001. His body was never recovered.
On May 27, Ito went to the memorial park with photographs of his brother and son in his briefcase. He did not have a chance to speak with the president. “I wanted to tell the president the world is one family, regardless of differences in nationality, race, and religion,” said Ito. “The president’s speech made me realize he felt like me.”
After he went home, Ito immediately spoke to his deceased family members enshrined at the family Buddhist altar: “The top leaders of both Japan and the U.S. laid wreaths for A-bomb victims. I believe the wreaths were also dedicated to Kazushige in New York.”
Watching the scene aired repeatedly on TV, in which President Obama shook hands with and hugged Hibakusha, Ito realized he had witnessed a historic moment. “Only when antagonists forgive each other, can we create a world without conflict,” said Ito. “The same applies to terrorism.”