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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Fumiko Segawa (female)
'Chokubaku'  2 km from the hypocenter / 14 years old at the time / current resident of Saitama

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Record of Hibakusha

In Shimonoseki

In April, at the age of fourteen after graduating from communications school where I learned dot-and-dash operation, I left Hiroshima to work at a telecommunication office in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. My mother, school principal and friends were at the station to see me off. It was my first time to live away from home. I lived in a company housing.

My days in Shimonoseki were all about work and sleep - until one night - a sudden air raid warning roared. I grabbed my air raid hood and dashed out of the house. Houses along the broad street were already on fire. Amid sparks, I ran out head over heels in my geta (wooden clogs), and managed to join a group of people all running in one direction. The asphalt roads were softened by heat of the fires. I finally reached an open lot. People there were shoving one another at the entrance of an air raid shelter. I was about to join the crowd when I heard a soldier shout at them "Don't enter there!" I had no choice but to continue running toward my office. I was able to survive the air raid.

Later I learned that all the people who stayed in the shelter were killed.

In the sea, there were explosions every day caused by mines dropped by enemies. They made enormous splashes over tens of meters. One day, out of curiosity, I went up to the rooftop of my office building to see them. The moment I reached there, I saw one of my senior colleagues, who were there before me. He was shot into pieces by a strafing run.

In Hiroshima

On August 5, I went back to Hiroshima on holiday to see my mother. I wore my office uniform and an odd pair of wooden shoes (Geta). After the series of air raids, that was all I could find. I had a fever on that day.

In the morning of August 6, 1945 --an unforgettable day, even after 50 years of time -- I was in bed with a fever. My mother came to my side with my baby brother and said, "Nice weather today. I'm going to wash his diapers and go to the city office to get some rationing milk for him." She was still trying to feed him from her breast which was already dried out.

Then, all of sudden, a sharp flash came through the shoji (a paper door), and an ear-deafening boom sounded. It was a moment that words cannot describe. Then I had a few hours of unconsciousness.

"Fumiko,,,Fumiko,,," I heard my mother's weak voice from afar, in a weeping voice, "What has happened?" Her voice came closer, I was completely lost. Slowly I opened my eyes. There I saw a face. But it didn't look like a human face. It was like a ghost, but its eyes had a motherly gentleness. It kept shaking my body. I got up from the grass and looked around. All I could see were smoldering houses and trudging ghosts dragging their peeled skins. Some are groaning for water, some falling into a sewage canal, some fainting away and dying. There was a mother holding her dead baby.

My mother was wounded all over. She started to explain. With the boom sound, we were all buried under the collapsed house. My mother, too, was unconscious until a sharp cry of my little brother brought her back. Her thought was "He is alive. I have to save him." She looked around through the clouds of dust. She saw a ray of light from where a pillar used to be. "I covered you two with a blanket and pulled you out of there with all my might." She hugged us with her wounded body, caked with blood here and there. Cold water was nowhere to be found. Hot water was running from a bent tap, perhaps because of the ground heat. The sewage canal was full of people, dead people.

We spent that wretched night in a makeshift camp my family and neighbors prepared in the drill grounds. We used anything solid we could find from the ruins to make the camp; tatami, fusuma, doors, anything. We ate anything we could find, including pumpkins that my mother had planted near the sewage canal.

All we could see were dead bodies, women, children and babies.

We walked for 30 minutes and waited for more than an hour just to get one piece of rice-ball that the nearby Women's Association prepared. Once we got one, we wolfed it down. My mother chewed the rice in her mouth in order for my baby brother to swallow.

Next day, my mother, with my baby brother on her back, wandered about the streets in the Kojinbashi, Matoba and Kamiyacho areas, under the scorching sun and amongst the stench of death, searching for my senior brother who had yet to come back. In front and from both sides, bloody wounded people, who barely seemed to have strength to move, were tottering. I saw maggots wriggling inside their wounds. They passed me by, collapsed and died. These images made me sick. By sheer force of will, my mother searched for my senior brother in vain. All she could see were the same, damaged people. Three days later, in the morning, she finally found him. "Thank God:" she cried.

Heaps of corpses were here and there in a vast East Drill Ground. By that time I had already gotten used to the stench of corpses. Among those corpses was a two or three year old boy, sticking out of a heap of adult corpses. His skin was peeled off and dangling. The image of his ball-size testicle was burned into my brain. Some men, perhaps fire fighters from neighboring villages, were digging holes near the drill grounds. They then threw the corpses into the holesadded fresh timbers brought from nearby mountains, poured oil in and lit them. It was hell, worse than hell.

On the fourth day, at dusk our uncle, my mother's senior brother, came by cart more than forty kilometres from west to east through the hypocenter, searching for us. "I waited for you for three days but I didn't see you. So I decided to come down here, at least to take your bodies home. Good God, you are all alive! Come on, get in the cart. Grandma is waiting for you." he said.

We left the dead city. We passed through dark mountain roads and when we reached Makunouchi-Toge Hill, a winding road like Iroha-zaka in Nikkou area, a truck stopped. "Hey! Good, you are all alive! Get in the back of the truck. It's faster. People are waiting for you." The man in the truck was our uncle's friend. "Oh, thanks", my uncle said to him. We joined the truck. After a while, I noticed that somebody else was on the truck. It was difficult to tell in the darkness, but it looked like a man. He was still. I reached out a little and touched him. He felt very cold, and sticky. It gave me a shiver. My uncle's friend, too, had come to Hiroshima searching for relatives and was taking a body home.