Like this Lenten dessert, my next few posts are made of leftovers, bits of the bread, cheese, and raisins of life that I have yet to clear out of my head. Today’s post is about the field trip I chaperoned last week for P.’s class.
How do you explain the bomb to a group of ten year olds? The guide at the National Atomic Museum did his best. He asked how many of the children had heard of World War II. Of the twenty or so in P.’s combo 3rd/4th grade class, only one boy raised his hand, though later in the field trip P. remembered that she and I had talked about my Grandpa Tino’s service in France and how he was awarded a Purple Heart. The guide called a few children from the group to stand on either side of him to represent the Allied and Axis powers. He had the kids glare at each other and raise their fists to show their anger, but he said that because they were so evenly matched, it would be difficult for one side to have a decisive victory over the other. He led us to a replica of Fat Man, the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki and then pointed out a photograph of Robert Oppenheimer and another scientist standing on a hill in Los Alamos. He talked about the need to hide what they were doing in a place no one would think to look.
Then he asked, “Why would the U.S. need to build a bomb like this?”
The kids answered, almost in unison, “To kill people.”
“Well, yes, it killed a lot of people. But what was the reason the U.S. needed to build this bomb?”
“To kill people,” the children said again.
“Many people died,” he said. “But there was a reason the U.S. had to build this bomb. What was it?”
By this time most of the kids were peering through the windows of the model Studebaker behind the guide, but those who were still paying attention answered, “To kill people.”
The guide finally gave up and said, “We built it to end the war.”
Whatever your beliefs about weapons, war, and the bomb, at their most basic level, they kill people. Kids get that. I wish more adults did.