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Nagasaki: Tipp City Teenagers Interview Author Susan Southard

Tippecanoe High School students interviewed author Susan Southard via Zoom last month.
Aimee Noel
Tippecanoe High School students interviewed author Susan Southard via Zoom last month.

After reading Susan Southard's book Nagasaki: Life After War, Dayton Youth Radio producers from Tippecanoe High School wanted to learn more about her work and thoughts about life after nuclear war. Southard visited with a group of students using Zoom last month thanks to a partnership between Tipp City Public Library, Tipp City Exempted Village Schools, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.


Connor Behm: Hi, this is Connor Behm Junior at Tippecanoe High School with a youth radio. How do you think we as a society can prevent another disaster, such as what was seen in Nagasaki?

Susan Southard: I think we can learn a lot about how much we as Americans, and I think it's true for all human beings, are easily able sometimes to rationalize or minimize or push aside or sometimes silence stories we don't want to hear. If you were just asking about honoring the survivors, they would want everyone to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons that exist today are far more powerful than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Luke Hoover: I'm Luke Hoover. I'm a junior at New High School. So would you say your mentality has changed? Like how you see the world and how you interact with different people?

Susan Southard: I lived with their stories intimately for so many years that they're in me now. And I think that really did change me as a human being. Sometimes it was incredibly sad or gripping. I didn't really have a chance at the time of the interview for the what? The content of what they're saying to impact me a lot. It broadened my sense of being a person of the world as opposed to my immediate community or even of the United States, I think. And I want to say that it's also important to honor the veterans of our military who fought in the Pacific in a war that was against a ferocious enemy.

Carli Federle: Carli Federle for Dayton Youth Radio. I'm a junior at Tippecanoe High School. For the book, how did you choose the survivors you interviewed?

Susan Southard: Mr. Taniguchi, who's one of the five survivors, I met him many years before I ever started writing the book when he was in Washington, D.C. on a speaking tour. Mr. Taniguchi, he made a huge impression on me and I knew I wanted to tell his story. He was 16 and he should have never survived. He his whole back was burned off. And he he lay face down for almost four years. He couldn't get up.

Carli Federle: It seems most people weren't reluctant to share then, that they were pretty open to tell their story.

Susan Southard: Yeah, they were. And that's not true, most survivors never speak about it to their families. Some survivors never even told their spouses that they were survivors.

Grayson Newbourn: This is Grayson Newbourn. I'm a junior at Tippecanoe High School. Do you think that some of the survivors of Nagasaki kind of like felt guilty or ashamed that they survived when so many other people didn't?

Susan Southard: I do think that many, many survivors, especially those who had their best friends or their family members or siblings or their parents...there's a woman in the book, she was 16 at the time of the bombing, named Mrs. Nagano, and her husband lost his whole family. And he was the sole survivor. And there's so much survivor guilt and anguish over that. I don't know if by the time that I met people in their 70s, it might have been less than less potent as earlier on, because time had long passed. But it was really hard.

Grayson Newbourn: It was wonderful to meet you. We really appreciate you coming.

Susan Southard: I extend my thanks to you and Connor and Luke and Carli and then all the students at your high school and the teachers for making this day possible. It's been one of the best experiences I've had since I wrote the book, and the questions were so thoughtful and different than ones that I usually get. I'm so very grateful.

Tipp City Student interviewers include: Luke Hoover, Connor Behm, Grayson Newbourn, and Carli Federle

Support from the Tipp City Foundation, Tippecanoe Educational Endowment, Robinson-Walters Family Fund, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and WYSO made the virtual event with Susan Southard possible.