Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 1945. American planes soaring over the far-off island, floating alone in the Pacific, while the world watched with held breath. From the planes fell little packages of something, leaving great expanses of nothing. And the adults said, "Thank God it's over."
Thank God what's over?
The war is over? The war will rage on. Perhaps not so much with machine guns and tanks and soldiers and bombs. There's nothing left to bomb, after all. And no one knows exactly what was left from those little packages called "atomic bomb." All they know is that it was the end.
The end of what?
The end of the killing? No more sons and husbands and fathers to be lost, no more leaving home to go save the world, no more heartbreaking news: missing in action, killed in action, prisoner of war. No more genocide, the six million are redeemed, even though they are no more than numbers and ashes now. There will never again be another concentration camp. All that is over forever. Or at least, until the next generation.
The next generation of what?
The generation of children, of those who watched wonderingly as their fathers went away to war, as their mothers cried, as the president spoke to the country, as the other children in distant lands died, they no less innocent than those who survived. Those who listened to the radio, listened to the adults pray, listened to them say, "Thank God it's over." And since they never understood the confusion anyway, never understood what was meant by "World War," they agreed. Thank God it's over. Thank God the confusion is over. War is ended.
Or is it?
Has the war ever truly ended? The lingering memories, stories, photos, tattooed arms. There are witnesses, there are more witnesses than the world wants. The next generation, the children who never understood, and their children who were never taught, turn their heads and close their ears. A war long gone, finished 50 years ago. Don't tell us. The Japanese are the Japanese, the Germans are the Germans, we are American.
And those who remember the war wonder if God really noticed after all. ?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.