Though, being second, Nagasaki doesn't hold the central place that Hiroshima claims in our collective memory, assuming such a thing as collective memory exists anymore. Having a limited capacity for history, people tend to remember events in a stripped down, outlined fashion, if at all. I've never seen a poll asking if Americans have any associations with "Hiroshima" — most ask if the bombing was justified, which I'm sure spilled the beans to more than a few who at first drew a blank, wondering, "Bombing? What bombing?"
In that light, this might seem unimportant. But ever since I read this letter in The New York Times 18 years ago, it's lodged in my mind, teaching something that is more than mere World War II trivia -- that a number of people survived both the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, having fled from the former city to the latter just in time for the second bomb. Here's the letter itself:
There would almost be something funny about it, in a dark, horrible way, the ultimate example of fleeing one disaster by running into the arms of another, if it weren't so enormously tragic.
And perhaps this is disingenuous — the very human tendency to focus on the positive scrap in the face of an overwhelming horror, to think about the Warsaw ghetto uprising and not the 6 million Jews who died, sheep to the slaughter. As many as 200,000 people died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and bringing up a handful of survivors of both should not distract from that awful fact. But that said, we may also remember, as we face our own daily challenges, that the human vessel can be very resilient, and there were some people who were in a city that had a nuclear bomb dropped on it, not once, but twice, and yet lived to tell the tale. There's something incredible about that, something also worth remembering.