Tony de Brum was a nine-year-old boy living on Likiep Atoll at the time of the Bravo nuclear test – an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Today he is Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands and one of the world’s leading advocates for nuclear disarmament.
In his own words:
“I am a nuclear witness and my memories from Likiep Atoll in the northern Marshalls are strong. I lived there as a boy for the entire 12 years of the US nuclear testing program and when I was 9 years old, I remember vividly the white flash of the Bravo detonation on Bikini atoll.
It was in the morning and my grandfather and I were out fishing. Unlike previous ones, Bravo went off with a very bright flash, almost a blinding flash; bear in mind we were almost 200 miles away from ground zero. No sound, just a flash and then a force, the shock wave – as if you were under a glass bowl and someone poured blood over it. Everything turned red: sky, the ocean, the fish, my grandfather’s net. People in Rongelap claim they saw the sun rising from the West.
My memories are a mixture of awe, of fear, and of youthful wonder. We were young, and military representatives were like gods and so our reactions to the tests as they took place were confused and terrifying. We had no clue what was happening to us and to our homelands. I saw the injuries to our countrymen from Rongelap and to this day cannot recall in words my sense of helplessness and anxiety without severe emotional stress. But for as long as I can remember, the explosions and the bizarre effects that lit up our skies are still a source of pain and anger. How could human beings do this to other humans?
The emotional and psychological trauma to our people, both young and old, cannot be measured in real terms. The pain is real and the uncertainty is overwhelming. But we will never give up. We have a voice that will not be silenced until the world is rid of all nuclear weapons.”