The first atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945

The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Today is the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. That’s not a notable number in the rather arbitrary realm of anniversary stories. But the event itself just seems to gain profundity as time goes on. Maybe that’s because the people who brought us to that brink, and fought to keep the world from pitching off it into a hopeless abyss, are fewer every day. Maybe it’s because we are back in serious geopolitical tension. Maybe it’s out of a sense of desperation to teach young people about a part of history that should never be forgotten.

One of the ways I remember is with an annual read of John Hersey’s short book “Hiroshima.” It has never been knocked from its place at the top of my list of Things Every Journalist Should Study. Today, to enrich that education, I hunted back through previous Storyboard posts that explore what makes the book endure:

  • Journalist and teacher Peter Richmond took a senior seminar with Hersey at Yale. In 2013, he wrote a semi-confessional essay about having to lose his ego to find his writing voice. It includes the six takeaways from Hersey’s class that stayed with him.
  • Former Storyboard editor Constance Hale included “Hiroshima” as one of the pieces of writing she has learned most from in her career.
  • Mark Kramer, founding director of the Power of Narrative conference, cited a passage from “Hiroshima” in a talk on narrative voice at this year’s virtual gathering.
  • Last year, on the 75th anniversary, I reflected on how the teaching power of Hersey’s book grows for me over time, and that every reading offers new insights. I cribbed, with credit, from those who had written about “Hiroshima” before, but also found myself studying how Hersey used individual names to build the humanity and universality of his story.

If you don’t have a well-thumbed copy of your own, it’s time. Or simply Google references to Hersey and “Hiroshima” to read how how others are still using Hersey’s iconiic work to uncover deeper and deeper truths about that horrible reality.

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