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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Sumie Noguchi (female)
'Chokubaku'  2.1 km from the hypocenter / 16 years old at the time / current resident of Kanagawa

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I lost many friends, acquaintances, and family; even now, 60 years later, I remember the smiling face and personality of each and every one of them. At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, the bell tolls. I face west toward distant Hiroshima, put my hands together and pray. I get goose bumps and grief fills my eyes with tears. When I saw my ghostly appearance with burns on my face, hands, and ankles, I wished I could have died. My mother looked the same. (My mother was 38 years old, and I was 16 years and 8 months).
My mother said, "Don't you ever think of dying. The people who died gave us life and we must live not just for ourselves, but for them too."Since then I have been living with this miserable appearance, reminding myself that I must live also for those who died unnoticed. I am now 76, and I wonder how many peoples' lives I have been given. I put my hands together and pray every morning. Somehow I have experienced adolescence, earning a living, and the joy of having children and grandchildren. Thank you. I will not forget what happened that day.

There are so many things I want to say, to tell people about, but I don't think anybody will understand; I don't think they will be able to appreciate my message. When we A-bomb survivors talk to children just entering elementary school, they seem to respond to our stories as if they were somebody else's concern, and not really appreciate them. In our current relatively peaceful world, is there anybody who appreciates how the atomic bomb instantaneously turned towns and people into charcoal and ashes? I doubt it. One never understands things until one experiences them.

There are so many things I can' t forget, more than I could ever tell. The unbelievable flash, like a combination of an electric spark and a camera flashlight; it was a silent world of bluish yellow light. Our clothes stand on the roof, bucket, brooms... everything was whirled up in the air. Was it a few seconds or a few minutes later? I realized that the clothes had been thrown down in a corner of our garden four or five meters [about 13.1 to 16.4 feet] away. All I could do was run along the riverbank behind our house toward the ocean. I pulled off what looked like pieces of roast pork, dangling from my face and arm. Later, I realized the dangling pieces were my skin.

Our family and neighbors lay on straw mats spread out in front of our house. The first to arrive was a junior high school student who had run from ground zero. There was a trace of his cap burned on his shaved head, his school uniform and leggings were burned and tattered, and the rubber soles of his split-toed heavy cloth shoes were stuck to the bottom of his feet. "I can't see. Which way is Ujina 7-chome ?" he asked. When we told him the way, he said "I have to hurry home, or my mother will be worried." and dashed off. Even now, when I see a seventh or eighth grader, it breaks my heart to wonder if that boy ever made it to his mother.

A girl from the neighborhood who had just started going to junior high school was naked from the waist up; not only her face and body but her chest were all abnormally swollen with skin sagging down, making her look like a ghost covered with gray and black spots, holding her arms up in front of her. Until she asked. "Do you know where my mother is?" and I recognized her voice, I had no idea who she was. All night she talked about what had happened to her, then died in the early dawn.
Another girl didn' t have one scratch even though she had been in the same place as the first girl. She came home looking exactly the same as when she had left that morning. About a month later, though, she started throwing up bluish-yellow mud-like liquid mixed with blood, and then died. They were both pretty girls who had just begun to sparkle.

There is so much I can' t forget that I want to go on speaking about until I'm dead. Even so, when I was young a woman friend pointed out that my face looked different, so I told her all about my experience with the A-bomb.
That summer, I saw a TV program on the events of August 6. The same woman came and said, "I saw that program. What an experience you went through!" There was a scene of burns being treated several weeks or months after the A-bomb was dropped, but that was nothing compared to the real experience. I realized what people hear from others is one thing and what one experiences is quite something else. "Seeing is believing." Whatever it may be, one has to experience it to really appreciate it.