Sixty-seven years ago, "The New Yorker," dedicated the entire editorial space of its August 31st issue to John Hersey's grand essay on the bombing.
I first read Hersey's book as a ninth grader.
I couldn't stand school but I loved the school library and would barricade myself therein and find a book and read it cover to cover. I did that one day with Hersey's "Hiroshima."
I'd be exaggerating to say it altered my life. But it did have an impact on me.
The clarity of the writing, the vividness of the images, the power of the tragedy and pain.
There's a lot of blather that continues to spew like the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. There are people in high-places who declare things like "storytelling is dead." Ignoring the seminal human need--a need that has existed as long as humans have roamed this not-so-green-earth.
I don't buy it.
I am a believer that brands deliver order in crowded marketplaces and the best brands articulate a story and a definition of who they are, what they do, why they do it and why what they do is important.
Too many brands--indeed, entire categories of brands--fail to do so. They act as if their brand is all about a $129 fare or a $49-monthly deal or everyday low prices.
They stand for nothing. But compensate for their nothingness by spending hundreds of millions of dollars or even, in the case of telcos or automobile companies, billions.
In any event, here's John Hersey's opening paragraph from "Hiroshima."
A NOISELESS FLASH AT exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6th, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel depart- ment at the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window of her kitchen watching a neighbour tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defence fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order's three-storey mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tammoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he* had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so
many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition -a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one street-car instead of the next that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time none of them knew anything.