- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - Survivors of the atomic bombings on Japan are sharing their experience at a home of the U.S. president who authorized the attacks.

The 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were being explored in a weekend symposium at the Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West.

Two survivors of the bombings opened the Truman Legacy Symposium on Friday telling those gathered about experiencing the devastation as children.

Setsuko Thurlow, who was 13 when Hiroshima was bombed, recalled her rescue from a collapsed building before classmates were burned alive inside it.

She recalled seeing a blue-white flash and then hearing the voices of her classmates begging for help in the collapsed building. She was trapped beneath boards but pulled free from the rubble, but said about 30 other girls were not so lucky. She ultimately fled the city on foot, but the sights of what she passed will never leave her.

“We saw streams of people, streams of ghostly people - burned, blackened,” she said. “When darkness came, we sat on the hillside and we watched the city burn.”

Yasuaki Yamashita, who was 6 when his home was destroyed in Nagasaki, said he spent decades hiding his background because of discrimination against survivors. He moved to Mexico and kept his background a secret from all but a few close friends until 1995, when a friend’s son asked him to speak at his university. He refused, then gave in and delivered a presentation on his experience.

“When I finished, my suffering started disappearing,” he said. “If we don’t tell what happened in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it could happen again - anywhere.”

Now nuclear disarmament advocates, the two survivors are part of presentations continuing through Sunday that include Truman’s grandson Clifton Truman Daniel, who is authoring a book on the bombings.

The annual Truman Symposium, in its 12 year, draws scholars, authors and political figures to discuss Truman’s presidency. Events were being held at sites including the Little White House, where Truman spent 11 working vacations.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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