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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Kazue Sawada (female)
'Chokubaku'  1.8 km from the hypocenter / 9 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. This is my story of August 6, which should be handed down to future generations.
August 6, 1945, dawned a hot summer's day under a beautiful morning sky in Hiroshima. I was nine years old and confined to bed with pleurisy. Nearby, my father was getting ready to go to work, and my five-year-old brother was sitting with his legs outstretched on the sunny veranda, playing with a toy car.

At 8:15 am, there was a sudden flash in front of us. At the same time we heard a massive booming sound, and my brother shouted, "It's hot!" The entire area was plunged into darkness, as we were probably right under the mushroom cloud caused by the atomic bomb explosion. When the visibility became clearer, my father lifted my brother into his arms, and walked barefoot across the back yard, over smashed roof tiles scattered everywhere, to look for clogs in the shoebox. My father was bleeding from his head, probably injured by falling objects.

My grandfather and I sought refuge in the hills area. Along the way there were many burning houses, and people were frantically running about in a dazed state, trying to escape the flames. They were too shocked to be able to fight the fires. After reaching a house on the hillside, we looked down across the city, which was a sea of flames. After a while, black rain started to fall on us, along with debris whipped up by the bomb blast. In the meantime, many people who had escaped, at a "safe" distance from the hypocenter of the blast, had gathered near us. Many had scorched clothing stuck to their skin, and their burnt bare skin had turned gray, dangling like rags from their bodies. It was impossible to identify one person from another.

That evening I reached my home, piggybacked by my grandfather, and saw that fortunately our house had been spared from the fire. All of the family were reunited except my younger sister, and my younger brother had received burns to both his arms and legs. My older brother, who was twelve years old, was burnt in the yard of his elementary school when preparing for a group evacuation scheduled for the next day. He sustained burns to his head, neck, arms and legs from the heat of the explosion, and his skin was covered with large blisters. He could not be treated with medicines or surgery, and for days on end, he was crying in pain. He was also unable to walk because of his exposed burnt skin.

My three-year-old younger sister was at our aunt's house located close to the hypocenter when the bomb exploded. Our uncle was buried under the crushed building rubble of their house, but he was able to urge them to escape the spreading fire. Both my sister and my aunt returned home a week later, almost naked. My sister's hair came out by pulling lightly, and her cheek had a hole large enough to expose her tongue, which was split in half. The only food we had was hard, roasted soybeans. My sister died just a month after my aunt's death. Remembering my sister in these times of plentiful food is always very painful.

Our house was located in the west of Hiroshima. From the house I could see right across the devastated city center to the eastern part of the city. We had no electricity, and every night we saw the red fires from the cremation of bodies in the dry riverbed. In the schoolyard of the Koi elementary school, which I attended, they dug ditches to burn bodies. I heard that the number of the bodies burnt exceeded 3000, and the particular smell from the cremations remained for a long time. On rainy days, there was a visible blue light in the sky, and I used to wonder if this was caused by a chemical reaction between the burnt bones and the moisture in the air.

My grand parents, parents and my younger brother, all of whom survived the atomic bomb, died from cancer one after the other, leaving only my older brother and me behind.

The year the atomic bomb exploded, 140,000 citizens lost their lives, and I would like to question the conscience of those Americans who caused the death of so many innocent people with one single atomic bomb.

Now I am pinning my hope for a world free of nuclear arms on President Obama's declaration on nuclear disarmament in Prague last year, as well as the statement on reviewing the strategic management by the United States (reported on April 6, this year), and the signing of the new nuclear disarmament treaty between the U.S. and Russia (reported on April 9, this year).