No going back - Hiroshima
6th August 1945
08.15 hours on 6th August 1945 and a searingly bright light appears in the sky over Hiroshima. The blinding flash of light lasts only a few seconds before the city of Hiroshima receives the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare and the epicentre of the blast obliterates most of the city. All is flattened within 700 to 800 yards, except for the chamber of commerce building, a concrete structure over an iron frame, that survives in a fragile skeletal form and, a presbytery occupied by a small group of Jesuit priests.
Beyond 1000 yards the blast goes into fragmentation mode and instantly fires break out and spread, so great is the backdraft of air after the bomb blast. Most of Hiroshima's buildings are made of wood and the intensity of the fireball heat that develops, consumes buildings and bodies leaving only ash in its wake.
The population of Hiroshima (those within 750 - 1000 yards of the epicentre) disappear totally - well, almost totally, some sections of buildings will be found after the blast with just the ghostly silhouettes of men, women and children left on them as an irradiated shadow. In all, between 90,000 and 150,000 people will die either immediately in the holocaust or some time afterwards as a result of their injuries and radiation sickness.
But back in the Jesuit presbytery, eight priests are dusting themselves down; they are not hurt in any way (other than a few minor scratches); they never suffer from radiation sickness in the years that follow.
Why? How? This is an impossiblity. Anyone that has visited the Peace Museum in Hiroshima can see the models of the city and all that was left of it after the bomb - there is nothing at all at the site of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and the presbytery (there was a ruin that the priests extricated themselves from but this was demolished as being too dangerous to leave standing). For over one mile from the epicentre all people were killed and all buildings flattened; the scene was one of utter desolation. No human could have survived unscathed within a mile of the epicentre.
But these men did. Fr Hubert Schiffer SJ was to give a reason for their survival:
"We said the Rosary, we lived Fatima"
Here is an account of the events that morning:
"On the morning of August 6, 1945, he had just finished Mass, went into the rectory and sat down at the breakfast table, and had prepared a grapefruit. No sooner had he put his spoon into the grapefruit when there was a bright flash of light. His first thought was that it was an explosion in the harbour (this was a major port where the Japanese refuelled their submarines.)