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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Takako Ishida (female)
'Chokubaku'  2.4 km from the hypocenter / 11 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo
724

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I was on the grounds of Oshiba National Elementary School. I heard the roaring sound of B-29s and looked up at their vapor trails in the sky. All of a sudden there was a flash, and dust and sand were stirred up everywhere, isolating me from the surroundings. I rushed into an air-raid shelter, and someone told me to smother the flames on my blouse. I beat out my burning blouse with my hands. In fact, the colored patterns on the front of my blouse were smoldering, and turned into holes. My face, arms and bare feet were also burnt.

That same day, I evacuated with my classmates to a temple in Yasu which was at a distance of eight kilometers. It must have been four of us. One morning I was awakened by a heartrending cry of a mother, "The water has gone from the bedside kettle, and my daughter is dead!" On another day, a girl was crying out, "Please make me comfortable!" She kept saying this until she died soon after. She had just evacuated from Osaka following an air raid there. About 30 years later, my elder brother told me that at that time, people were saying that it would be me who would die next. In fact I had been bed-ridden for a month. When I was up on my legs again and looked at myself in a mirror, I was surprised to see myself looking like a red ogre. Later my face turned from red to dark, as if I were a pioneer of dark makeup, which is so popular these days. I had to spend my adolescence with a dark-colored face, which made me so depressed. When I remember two classmates, both of whom died at the age of 11, I cannot help but cry bitterly. It does not make sense that we were exposed to radiation at the same place, yet some died within a couple of days, while others like me still live even after some 60 years have passed. My mother died in July 1946 because of inadequate medical care. My father stayed healthy and remarried a woman who was very thoughtful and warm-hearted, and they spent a good life.

As a human being, I do believe that as long as we talk and make efforts to understand each other, we can avoid war.
I long for a world without war.
(2005)

"Life and Death of 11-year-old children"

Sixty years ago the A-bomb was dropped, and since then I have been advocating that it must not happen again. I will describe what exactly happened in Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945. As an air raid alert was called off, I went to Oshiba National Elementary School which was 2.4 kilometers north of the hypocenter. Leaving my school bag in my classroom, I went out to the playground barefooted to the willow tree which was the symbol of the school, and waited for the morning assembly to start in the shade. Then someone shouted, "There come B-29s!" pointing to the east. I held my hand above my eyes to avoid the dazzling sunlight and look at them. As I followed the vapor trails in the sky, a sharp flash pierced through my eyes to my skull, then the earth rumbled and the sand on the ground turned to swirling clouds of yellow dust. I could not see anyone standing near me. I was alone. I rushed to an air-raid shelter by crawling between ridges of a sweet potato field that my friends had ploughed in the playground. I still remember the coolness of the leaves that I touched on the way.

As soon as I entered the shelter, someone told me, "You are on fire. Put it out!" I looked at my blouse and I could see flames on it in the dark. The colored patterns on the front of my blouse were smoldering, so I beat the flames out with my hands. My white blouse, whose color had faded from repeated washing, was now covered with holes where the colored patterns had burned. I was also wearing thick cotton dark blue work pants. The front parts of the blouse turned brown and were torn to shreds later.

A little while later, the air cleared and we went outside. A thatched house to the east was on fire. My house was to the south, but I was told not to go back. I went through the back gate and joined a crowd heading north.

Along the way heavy rain began to fall. It was black rain, like muddy water. However, it was still a comfort for our burning bodies. Adults were worried, saying that the enemy might spread gasoline and set fire all over the city to wipe us out.

I had no external wounds, but just some burns. When my blouse burned, I also had my face, neck, hands and feet burned, so at a first-aid station along the way, I had my feet wrapped with bandages. However, they came loose while I was walking and people stepped on them. I could not go any further. The crowd was so big and there was no space for me to stop and reroll my bandages. My school teacher came up and kindly carried me on his back. On the back of his neck I saw a burn which looked very painful. He put me onto a horse-drawn carriage which was full of A-bomb victims, and that was the last time that I saw him. Hearing people around talking about me saying "Poor thing she is still a little girl," I was transported to a temple in Yasu which was eight kilometers north from the school. From that evening on, I remained bed-ridden and was cared for by many people. The following day, I heard my mother calling out my name. She said she had been looking for me in many places. When the A-bomb was dropped she was in our house, which shook as if in a huge earthquake. She picked up some clothes from the open drawers of a wardrobe and ran away. Without adequate medical care, my mother died in July the following year. She was 38 years old.

I received medical treatment by soldiers who said they came "on the order of the Emperor," and they applied Mercurochrome to my wounds.

Every day I dozed off, and had no sense of time. One morning I woke up and there was a woman crying and telling people, "The water has gone from the bedside kettle, and my daughter is dead!" She was talking about one of my classmates who was lying next to me. Another classmate who had just been evacuated from Osaka following an air raid there kept saying "Please make me comfortable!" like a baby pleading. One day I didn't hear her, so I asked someone why. I was told that she had passed away. Someone died like that every day. About 30 years later, my elder brother told me that at that time, people were saying that it would be me who would die next. It does not make sense that we were exposed to radiation at the same place, yet some died within a couple of days while others like me still live even after some 60 years have passed.
As I was bed-ridden for a month, I did not see my friends who died. All I saw was the burns on my arms.

In September my wounds began to dry, so I tried to stand up by clinging to a pillar. To my surprise, I couldn't stand on my own feet; my head leaned backwards, the wounds on my feet hurt, and my knees and back were too weak to support my weight. I did exercises every day and was able to walk again by the end of September.

I can never forget my horror when I looked at myself in a mirror hung on the wall. I was a red ogre. Later my face turned from red to dark, and I had to spend my adolescence with a dark-colored face. I was reminded of my ugliness only when people stared at me or I saw my face in a mirror. But my family had to look at me all the time, so they must have been very worried about me. In November, I developed a high fever and lost three teeth. Everyone thought I would die.

One morning, an 11-year-old friend of mine did not wake up. Another friend, also age 11, kept talking about her illness until the last moment. Thinking about these two friends, I was convinced that my duty is to pass on their unconquerable despair. This is why I have shared my memoir here, and now I would like to conclude in tranquility.

As a human being, I do believe that as long as we talk and make efforts to understand each other, we can avoid war. I long for a world without war.
(Previously published text received 2010)