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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Setsuko Iwamoto (female)
'Chokubaku'  1.4 km from the hypocenter / 13 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I was thirteen back then, and in my second year at the Girl's School. We were assembled that day at school in Minami Takeya-cho (1.4 kilometers [about 0.9 mile] away from the hypocenter) for evacuation work of buildings. We were supposed to head out from school to our separate workplaces. Because an air raid warning was on, we were waiting in our classrooms. When the "all clear" sounded, the school bell rang signaling the start of the morning assembly. Girls who were quick were already out on the playground, while slower girls were still in classrooms on the second floor. I was in the hallway of the first floor walking toward the exit. It was there that I received a bright flash of yellow light. Wondering what it was, I widened my eyes, then saw another flash; this time it was bluish and even more intense.

When I came to, I was underneath the collapsed school building, and I heard cries for help all around me. I thought the school had been bombed and knew I had to get out of there fast. But that's all I remember there, with no recollection of how I actually got out.

In the dim light, which made me almost think dusk had arrived, I saw human figures near the school gate and approached them. A burned face, skin falling off; a face unrecognizably injured; a person with her hair damaged and frizzy and clothing tattered and ragged; a person with her entire body black from burns... my friends and I tried to identify one another by the work pants and voices. Instinctively I felt my face with both hands. To my relief, it seemed uninjured, but my right arm, exposed under the short sleeve of my school uniform top, had received rays of the light. Skin dangled from my wrist to my fingertips. My left arm was swollen from first-degree burns, portions of my feet that were exposed to the flash were also swollen, and I seemed to have difficulty breathing, my nose and throat gravelly from clay and dust.

Our teacher shouted, "Run to Ohkou Elementary School! Run toward the Hijiyama hills!" So everyone started in that direction. On the way, we saw people steeping their hot bodies in water tanks for fire fighting use, or gathering around the water gushing out of broken water pipes. "If you drink water, you'll die. People with burns aren't supposed to drink any water!" someone shouted. Walking barefoot over the debris, a mother called out half-crazed, "Save my child from where she's buried!" A child was wailing, desperately trying to find its parents. There was a soldier with infected burns all over his body except where protected under his military hat. I kept seeing many gruesome-looking people like this.

As we came to the Hijiyama Bridge, my friend wanted me to come with her to cool off our burning bodies in the river. Thinking it better to quickly get to the elementary school as our teacher had instructed, I pulled her by the hand. Others started walking down to the river.

Those who longed for the coolness of the water must have been washed away by the current, their energy drained.
Later, a large number of remains were found in the ruins of our school.

Most of the students from my grade either died that day, or soon after. Some of my friends who did survive for tens of years experienced recurring cancer, and others, despite the fact that they were uninjured, went in and out of hospitals dozens of times until they died in pain.

As days go by, memories of the war fade away. As a survivor, I feel I must pass on to future generations the tragic sights of tens of thousands of people who died in pain, the voices of war victims who were never able to voice their resentment.