As a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I feel a powerful commitment to tell the story of Hiroshima. The survivors are getting old and passing away, leaving a smaller number of us. We feel it is imperative to tell the younger generation of that terrible dawn of the nuclear age. All of us are familiar with the scenes of devastation in New York following the terrorist attacks. But that devastation extended only several blocks. Imagine the devastation of an entire city.
When I sit down to write down my recollections of that time, I have to brace myself to confront my memories of Hiroshima. It is exceedingly painful to do this because I become overwhelmed by my memories of grotesque and massive destruction and death. My message could be painful to you as well, as I intend to be as open and honest as possible in sharing my experience and perceptions.
On August 6, 1945, I was a 13-year-old grade 8 student at Hiroshima Jogakuin and a member of The Student Mobilization Program. I was one of a group of 30 students assigned to help at the army headquarters. We were on the second floor of the wooden building about a mile from the hypocentre, about to start our first day of work. At 8:15 a.m., I saw a bluish-white flash like a magnesium flare outside the window. I remember the sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the total silence and darkness, I realized I was pinned in the ruins of the collapsed building. I could not move. I knew I was faced with death. Strangely the feeling I had was not panic but serenity. Gradually I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries for help, “Mother, help me!”, “God, help me!” Then suddenly, I felt hands touching me and loosening the timbers that pinned me. A man’s voice said, “Don’t give up! I’m trying to free you! Keep moving! See the light coming through that opening. Crawl toward it and try to get out!” By the time I got out, the ruins were on fire. This meant that most of my classmates who were with me in the same room were burned alive. A solider ordered me and a few surviving girls to escape to the nearby hills.
I turned around and saw the outside world. Although it was morning, it looked like twilight because of the dust and smoke in the air. People at a distance saw the mushroom cloud and heard a thunderous roar. But I did not see the cloud because I was in it. I did not hear the roar, just the deadly silence broken only by the groans of the injured. Streams of stunned people were slowly shuffling from the city centre toward nearby hills. They were naked or tattered, burned, blackened and swollen. Eyes were swollen shut and some had eyeballs hanging out of their sockets. They were bleeding, ghostly figures like a slow-motion image from an old silent movie. Many held their hands above the level of their hearts to lessen the throbbing pain of their burns. Strips of skin and flesh hung like ribbons from their bones. Often these ghostly figures would collapse in heaps never to rise again. With a few surviving classmates I joined the procession carefully stepping over the dead and dying.
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