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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

G.H (female)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 14 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. Sixty-four years have passed since the end of World War II, when I was a schoolgirl. Using a siren, our principal directed us all to evacuate to the river bank behind our school, where we heard the "Sound" and saw the "Cloud." We were told to leave school together early that afternoon. Since I commuted by train, I had to wait till the early evening to board one. I changed from the Fukuen Line to the Geibi Line. The Geibi Line train was so crowded with wounded soldiers and other passengers that some were even hanging on to the deck. With the help of others who were calling for a boost, I managed to get on the train. Inside the train were burned soldiers and ordinary people in charred and tattered clothes. Their faces, arms and legs were burned bright red with skin dangling from their bodies. On top of all that, I got a whiff of an indescribably horrible smell. It was an utterly miserable sight.

When I got home, my parents immediately left for Hiroshima in a police car to look for my sister, since she had been working there. They searched for one week, and at last it seemed they had found her. They told me to bring them some medicine and clothes, so I left for Hiroshima with what I had at home. Since that area was burnt to the ground, I had a difficult time finding the actual spot where I was supposed to meet them, and eventually found myself lost after dark. I had no other option but to get inside an air raid shelter. So I sat down there to spend the night until it got light outside. As it gradually grew lighter, I looked around and realized that the other people in there were all dead. When I looked underneath me, I realized that I was even sitting on some corpses. It was just beyond words on how frightened I was at that moment. Pressing my hands together, I said,"I am so sorry" to myself, and I left the air raid shelter crying. On the river bank I heard the groans of the injured, and everyone I saw had their skin peeling away and dangling from their bodies. In hindsight, I can hardly believe that I went through that all on my own in search of my parents.

Upon returning home, I reported to the National Elementary School with a towel I had on hand. Standing in for my mother, who was a member of the Women's National Defense Association, I helped to nurse the wounded soldiers being looked after there. A great number of returning casualties came day in and day out to be laid closely side by side in cramped rooms. Those who could call out for their mothers, groan or utter sounds still had some stamina left. But the wounded who could not utter a word nor even move their mouths were a really frightening sight to the 14-year-old girl I was then. I could hardly bear to look at them. They were lying very close to one another, burned so badly that they no longer looked human. Their white bones were partly exposed through the wounds in their arms, legs and shoulders, and these wounds were covered in flies. Since there weren' t many electric fans available, I started fanning the flies away by hand and went on doing it with hardly any rest breaks.

In addition, every morning I loaded a pile of clothes, blankets, underwear and the like, all stained with bloody pus, on a heavy two-wheel iron cart to carry to a stream 500 meters [about 547 yards, or 0.3 mile] away. I dammed up water in the stream and did the laundry without soap by stomping on it with my feet. I hung it out to dry on the bank. I would come back in the evening to collect it. This kind of heavy labor is something that we can hardly imagine today. When I would get back to the school, the patients would demand help by stretching out their burned arms to me. "Sister, please put some ointment on my wound, " or "Call a doctor!" they would say pleadingly. I was at my wit' s end wondering how I could help them. All I could do was to look at them in the face and pray for them to hang in there. Every single day I saw dozens of them die a lonely death in agony.

I will never be able to forget this experience as long as I live.

Ten days later my sister was able to return home with my parents. She had received a 15 cm-wide wound in her forehead, leaving her white bone exposed. As sand got inside it, we would remove it with cotton swabs. After we used up all the ointment, we concocted a blend of cooking oil and flour-based cosmetic powder and would apply it thickly in an attempt to cover the wound. In spite of all our efforts, though maggots got into the wound, and she had a very tough time.

War is nothing more than a living hell that destroys the lives of all living things. As long as I live, I will keep calling on the world and the next generation to eliminate nuclear weapons so as to not repeat that cruel tragedy that I experienced. I will continue to pray for world peace.