August 6, 2015
Survivors Recount The Day The Bomb Dropped On Hiroshima
By Kaori Hitomi
Hiroshima, Japan (AP) -- The crumbling brick and concrete walls of the Atomic Bomb Dome, as it is known today, rise above the Motoyasu River. The bomb so devastated Hiroshima that there are few other reminders of the city that was here seven decades ago.
“I didn’t want to see this place for a long time,” said Kimie Mihara, a fragile but straight-backed 89-year-old. She walked slowly around the fenced-off ruin, now roofless save for the dome’s skeleton.
On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, this building was her office. She was running late to work. That’s the only reason she’s still alive.
“When this was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, I thought of coming here. But I still didn’t want to see this place,” she said.
A resident surveys the post-blast Dome
Rebun Kayo, on the other hand, has made it his life’s work to come back, again and again. At the crack of dawn recently, some curious joggers stopped to watch the 38-year-old Hiroshima University graduate student wading in the shallow waters in front of the dome at low tide, under a still-dark sky.
He hunched over to feel the riverbed for blasted remnants of the dome still submerged. In this city where physical history has been almost fully erased, he is determined to save those that are left, even those small enough to fit in the palm of his hand.
EDITOR’S NOTE - On two days in August 1945, U.S. planes dropped atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima, one on Nagasaki, the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used in war. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II. This is the story of a still-scarred building that stands in Hiroshima, 70 years after the fateful morning of Aug. 6.
The dome building is literally a shell of what it once was, empty save for some stray cats lounging on a broken windowsill.
Debris from the wall and roof, some pieces more than a meter (3 feet) long, remain scattered on the floor, visible through holes in the walls and empty window frames.
Built in 1915, it was a rare example of Western architecture in Hiroshima at the time. Czech architect Jan Letzel designed it to be a city landmark and an exhibition hall for industrial and cultural promotion.
The three-story building was just 160 meters (525 feet) from the epicenter of the blast, yet was the only thing left standing in the area. It was one of the few structures built of brick, stone and steel in what was essentially a wooden city. Most buildings were flattened and burned by the bomb, which turned the seaport into a wasteland and killed an estimated 140,000 people, including those who died from their injuries or radiation exposure though the end of 1945.
About 30 workers were believed to be in the dome building, which had been converted to accommodate mostly government offices as the war intensified. All likely perished, though some remains have never been recovered.
Today, though the building is too hazardous to be open to the public, it is still a focal point of Peace Memorial Park, and a must-see for many of the more than 11 million tourists Hiroshima receives annually, about 650,000 of whom come from outside Japan.
The Dome building in Hiroshima today
Mihara was 19, and had been working in the dome building for about two months. An interior ministry worker, she excelled at using the abacus and was helping in the accounting department. She recalls how busy her days were. Her office was on the ground floor, facing the river, but she hardly had time to enjoy the view right outside her window.
She was due in the office at 8 a.m. The U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the bomb at 8:15. She said she had been unusually tired that morning, and did not feel like going to work.
“I survived as I was late,” she said. “So, yes, I know and feel lucky that I wasn’t here at that time. But, thinking about those who were killed just because they were good and punctual, I am just so sorry and feel so bad for them.”
She remembers little about her co-workers, who were mostly men. The trauma of the bombing eclipses any memories she might have had of the weeks before it.
Although she escaped death, her face, arms and legs were burned; some scars are still visible. Her house burned down, she was bedridden for three months and she lost her father, who was believed to be at his office close to the epicenter.
Losing so much, the remaining family members left Hiroshima to rebuild their lives. Mihara met her husband in Kyushu, the island south of Hiroshima, and they had three children.
While many atomic bomb survivors, particularly women, found it difficult to marry because of fears their children would have birth defects, Mihara says her husband was so smitten with her that his mother didn’t object. He died relatively young, however, and Mihara returned to Hiroshima, where she worked in a trading company to support her family until retirement.
In its postwar rebuilding, Hiroshima decided to conserve the dome as it was in 1961, leaving it as an icon of devastation in a city where such scars were quickly becoming invisible. The building was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 to call for a non-nuclear world and world peace.
For most of the past 70 years, Mihara said little about her time at the dome. But as others of her generation passed away, she began to wonder whether it was her duty to speak - even whether that was the reason fate spared her. Now she shares her experiences more.
“I could have died in the bombing, but I am so blessed having survived to live such a happy life,” she said on a cloudy July afternoon.
She stopped at an inconspicuous memorial, mounted on the corner of the fence surrounding the dome, and kneeled to pray.
Kayo first visited Hiroshima on a school trip when he was 14. He listened to a survivor who told her story on the riverbank; he was struck by the scars on her neck and hands.
About a decade ago, he learned that debris from the dome could still be found in the river. He began searching for it, in part to keep the memory of the event from fading away.
“What I am afraid of is that it started to feel like something further from reality,” he said. “But here in front of the dome, everything is conserved as it was, and we can still find these relics from that time. In this way, I am trying to bring back the past to the present.”
He has retrieved shattered bricks and stones of various sizes. On many, the L-shaped motif that decorated the building is still visible, though much faded.
A few pieces are as big as a meter (3 feet) long, and had to be pulled out with a machine. Most are much smaller. Shells have attached to them after decades in the river.
Kayo has been allowed inside the normally off-limits building to compare its material and structure with the debris he has found. So far he’s found about 1,000 bits of rubble that match.
There is no known research on how the debris ended up in the river, Kayo said. He suspects some of it was thrown into the river when people were trying to rebuild the city after the bombing, but he doesn’t rule out the possibility that some was blown into the river by the blast.
He has sent pieces to more than 50 universities and institutions across the world as tangible evidence of the destruction. Though some declined the gift, about 20 accepted, including Stanford University and Cambridge. At Hiroshima University on Thursday, the 70th anniversary of the bombing, a representative of the Czech Republic, the architect’s homeland, will accept the largest fragment Kayo has recovered so far.
Kayo’s university also displays some of the debris at a small museum on campus. He has set up a nongovernmental organization and now has a few younger students helping him with the work. He’s also studying anatomy as a Ph.D. candidate, to be prepared in case he finds the remains of A-bomb victims in the riverbed.
Each time Kayo looks for more pieces of the building, he bows to the river before he steps in.
“To me, the dome is a graveyard for those killed in Hiroshima, for those killed inside the dome, died nearby, died drowning in the river, those died at the field hospitals,” he said. “The place is a graveyard for all of them.”
Restoration Of Historic Alamo Painting Nears Completion
By SCOTT HUDDLESTON
San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio (AP) Art conservator Anne Zanikos has nearly finished saving a 114-year-old painting from the Alamo that depicts a key moment in the Texas independence struggle.
After four months of conservation work at an Olmos Park studio, ``Ben Milam Calling for Volunteers,’’ painted in 1901 by Texas artist Harry Arthur McArdle, could return next month to the shrine.
The piece, donated to the Alamo by Milam descendants at some point before 1970, was displayed in Alamo Hall and the gift shop before being relegated to a vault at the site in 2000 because of its poor condition.
Zanikos estimates that she and her lab assistant have spent close to 100 hours cleaning, repairing and remounting the work, with funding from a $5,430 grant from the Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation. Details of the painting invisible for decades are now emerging from the damage left by previous unsympathetic conservation efforts, she said.
``It would be rare to have a painting nearly 115 years old that has never been restored,’’ Zanikos told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1MVtxlk). ``But this one was in rough shape. It had really been abused.’’
Alamo historian and curator Bruce Winders said the painting’s repair is important for the Alamo and Texas because of the prominence of the artist and the moment it depicts.
Anne Zanikos restoring Ben Milam painting
The work, one of about 40 paintings in the Alamo’s collection of about 1,500 artifacts and among its few artworks dating back more than a century, had faded to ``a caricature of itself,’’ he said.
Winders said the Alamo plans to put it back on display and seek more private grants to restore other pieces.
``We want to develop a way to completely assess art, have it taken care of and, when there’s exhibit space, put them on display again,’’ he said.
McArdle’s painting shows Milam, at 47 about twice the age of the average Texian soldier, rallying the troops to renew their long-stalled assault on the Mexican forces holding the village of Bexar in December 1835, when the rebels were considering whether to keep fighting for Texas independence or go home for the winter.
``Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?’’ he is said to have called out at a camp about a half-mile north of today’s downtown area. More than 300 Texians and Tejanos responded to fight house to house in what became the Dec. 5-9 Battle of Bexar, resulting in a Mexican surrender.
Milam didn’t see the victory. He was killed, believed to have been cut down Dec. 7 as he emerged from the Veramandi House on the north end of today’s Main Plaza by a sniper who used a tree for cover. Tradition has identified the tree as the forked ``Ben Milam Cypress,’’ on the River Walk near Houston and Soledad streets.
Milam, a Kentucky native, is memorialized with a statue where he’s buried in the downtown park that bears his name. A descendant, Kathleen Milam Carter, said she’s eager to see the painting again.
Many people do not associate him with the Alamo, Carter said. But his plea for volunteers played a key role in setting the stage for the 13-day siege of the Alamo and the early-morning battle less than three months later in 1836.
``I do feel something when I see that painting,’’ Carter said. ``I think he felt strongly about what he was fighting for.’’
The painting in the process of restoration
The other historic figure attached to the painting is artist McArdle, an Irish immigrant who was listed in census records as Henry but preferred the name Harry. In Texas, he is best known for two large paintings, ``Dawn at the Alamo’’ and ``The Battle of San Jacinto,’’ that hang in the Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol. Each is more than 12 feet wide and 8 feet high.
Some have questioned the accuracy of McArdle’s work, particularly the Alamo piece, with figures interpreted as defenders William Barret Travis and David Crockett appearing to have a saintly glow. Others have said he conducted careful research, even exchanging letters with Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna shortly before the former Mexican dictator died in 1876.
Zanikos used adhesive to repair the work where paint was lifting and applied solvents to clean it. It had severe structural problems, with a lining canvas poorly placed on the back, and ``sloppy patches’’ that left bulges and wrinkles where the painting had several tears. The work was mounted on an old wooden stretcher that offered poor support.
Using a scalpel, Zanikos peeled the painting back, inch by inch, from the lining canvas, which had once been attached to it with animal-skin glue.
``Now, keep in mind that the original is completely weak, and brittled; has already been abused. That makes it more tedious and scary, because we don’t want to cause more damage,’’ she said. ``We had to line up all the little canvas threads on the tears, get them as flat as possible.’’
The work was mounted on an aluminum-skinned honeycomb panel, typically used in the aviation industry as interior walls in airplanes for its strength, light weight and shock absorbency. That panel should ensure that ``this poor painting’s not going to go through anything else’’ that damages it, Zanikos said.
Santa Rosa’s Blue Hole Is A Big Draw For Travelers
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Santa Rosa, NM (AP) In an otherwise arid stretch of eastern New Mexico is a seemingly bottomless, deep blue swimming hole that has built up quite a reputation.
Local legend has it that outlaw Billy the Kid would take a dip in the Blue Hole before heading into Santa Rosa. Weary railroad workers and passengers followed at the turn of the century, and then came the flood of travelers along historic Route 66.
The artesian spring, tucked into a rock outcropping just off the highway, pumps out some 3,000 gallons (11,000 liters) of water per minute. That’s enough to fill a standard swimming pool in short order so it’s no wonder that the steady flow results in crystal clear conditions that have attracted divers from around the world.
Then there’s the consistently cool temperature and the depth.
The bell-shaped spring gets wider as it gets deeper. At the bottom, about 80 feet (24 meters) down, there’s a metal grate to keeps divers from going any farther into the maze of caves that sits below it.
The cave system has been sealed off since 1976, when two divers in training died after getting separated from their classmates. New Mexico State Police divers quickly found one of the bodies but it took several weeks to find the other. In the process, police divers were able to make a crude map of some of the unexplored passage ways.
At the time, one of the divers descended close to 200 feet (61 meters) and found himself at the edge of an underwater cliff. His powerful flashlight wasn’t enough to see the cave wall across from him or the bottom, sparking only more curiosity.
In 2013, divers with the ADM Exploration Foundation attempted an expedition but they had little success getting past the tons of rock the city had dumped onto the grate to keep people out.
Today, tourism officials are highlighting Blue Hole as part of the New Mexico True campaign, which aims to paint the state as a place for outdoor fun and cultural exploration.
One of the campaign’s videos features young, fit hipsters in trunks and bikinis diving and dancing in slow motion into the Blue Hole.
Diving in the Blue Hole
It’s really a scene from any given summer day, with the bravest of the bunch taking a leap from the natural diving boards that surround the sinkhole.
There are lifeguards on duty and the locals are quick to offer encouragement if there’s any hesitation about jumping.
Not up for a thrill? Use the concrete steps to reach the water.
Or if you want to see what it looks like beneath the surface, diving classes are available.
Divers from around the region flock to Blue Hole for fun and certification, as it’s one of the best diving spots in the Southwest. About 8,000 dive permits are sold each year.If You Go...SANTA ROSA BLUE HOLE: 1085 Blue Hole Road, Santa Rosa, New Mexico; http://santarosabluehole.com/ or 575-472-3763. Weeklong dive permit, $8; fee for parking and recreational swimming, $5. Scuba, snorkel and swim gear offered for a rental fee on weekends.
Located about 110 miles (177 kilometers) from Santa Fe and 120 miles (193 kilometers) from Albuquerque.