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For Those Who Pray for Peace
The Journey to the Epicenter in Search of My Sister
- Toshiko Yoshiura (maiden name, Ide)
51st Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School before the war,
24th Graduating Class of College of English
Residing in Naka-ku , Hiroshima City
On the morning of the bombing, I came to the wide road that I would normally take, but I suddenly felt a strange urge to walk on a quieter street two blocks down, so I changed my direction. I walked along for a while, but then I heard a slight popping sound over my head. I covered my eyes and ears in a reflex and jumped into a nearby public building. As soon as I squatted there was a loud bang outside. I left the building shaking, thinking the structure would crumble. People from the office in the building were saying "It's an air raid; how awful! You'd better get home immediately". I headed home and as I ran, a person who was running in front of me looked back and said, "How lucky we are for taking this street. The people walking on the wide road two blocks down are covered with burns and with blood. There are some that were thrown down and died on the spot. We are lucky and we should be strong." I gathered some strength from the stranger's encouragement, but the journey home was long and dreadful. People were wailing in their destroyed homes. I was shaking by the time I made it to my house.
Although part of our home was damaged, my parents were safe, and they welcomed me home. My oldest sister also returned, but my second oldest sister did not, and so we decided to search for her. We came to Koi Station and looked towards the city. There wasn't much left to look at. People standing around the station spoke amongst themselves: "You can see all the way to Hiroshima Station because there's nothing to block the view. This is a living hell." "I wonder when the trains will start running again."
We kept going to find my sister. When we approached the city center, I noticed there were many who seemed to have thin and shabby gray cloth hanging from their heads, chins, or fingertips. I thought the cloth was from burned kimonos, but as I got a closer look I realized that this was burned skin peeling off their bodies. My tears flowed and for a while I stood in a stupor, unable to move. Words cannot express the way I felt. I continued to search for my sister long after that day, but we never found her.
The days that followed were very sad indeed. One day as I approached adulthood, I visited a doctor's clinic as I hadn't been feeling well. The office ran some tests on my bone marrow and diagnosed me with leucopenia and anemia. This was a common aftereffect from the radiation of the bomb, and the doctors told me that the best way to correct my condition was to increase the protein in my diet. Since my childhood I had always had a big appetite, so this treatment suited me well. But there were other treatments that required me to commute to the hospital, and I remember arranging my work with difficulty.
For many years I suffered from the aftereffects of radiation. The saving grace was being able to teach at Jogakuin Junior High and High School. Every day, the students attended classes and studied with such interest and passion that I felt inspired to focus on my lectures for as long as I lived. I am deeply grateful for all the people who supported me, and I feel that I owe my life to them.
The city that was rumored to be unlivable for 75 years is now a peaceful and vibrant community. But I believe it is important to never forget the suffering caused by the atomic bomb. We must remember the victims' pain as if it were part of our own bodies. I pray for the 350 souls of the students and teachers at Jogakuin who lost their lives in the bombing. And I hope for the young generation to continue spreading the message of world peace, so that such a tragedy will never be repeated.
… 78 years old