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For Those Who Pray for Peace
Precious Life

Junko Tabe (maiden name, Ohshima)
2nd Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School before the war,
2nd Graduating Class of College of Clothing Design
Residing in Minami-ku, Hiroshima City

 I was a student at Hiroshima Jogakuin College. The campus was located in Kaminobori-cho, where the Jogakuin High School now stands. I think I had started school about a week prior to that fateful day. There was an air raid warning in the morning, so I was delayed leaving my home. I went to school with my friend Ms. Kuwabara and took a seat in the back of the Assembly Hall to attend morning chapel.

 After chapel, I remember seeing the clock in the hallway. It pointed to 8:15. At that moment, a strong flash went off and I clung to Ms. Kuwabara. I don't remember much about what happened in the confusion immediately afterwards. I do remember, however, that was the last time I saw Ms. Kuwabara. When I realized I was under the collapsed building and I was trapped, I think I instinctively started doing the "cover your eyes and ears and open your mouth" exercise that we learned in the emergency drills. Finally, when I managed to crawl out, I saw that a sea of fire surrounded me. I don't remember how I escaped. My left hand and eyelid were cut and bleeding. The blood got in my eye and I couldn't see. I ran into Ms. Numabe and she washed my face with water from a pump. I don't remember how we parted.

 In desperation, I dodged the fire and reached Sentei Garden (Shukkeien). I met up with Ms. Takeko Shimazu, who was a language teacher, and headed towards the Enko River. The flames licked both banks of the river, and Ms. Shimazu and I crouched into a tight ball, shaking and holding each other. I also don't remember how I parted from her. The river was filled with injured people moaning and groaning. Dead bodies floated alongside debris, and it truly was hell on earth.

 I think I sat there until early evening. A First Aid boat full of dead bodies approached and took me (I can't swim) across the river. The sight from the boat was also hellish. A woman from the 2nd floor of a house on fire screamed for help, until the flame swallowed her and the whole house. I saw many people whose skin had burned off and hung from their hands.

 When I got off the boat I heard my name being called. I turned around, but I didn't recognize anybody. I continued to walk and heard the small voice again. It belonged to a girl. "It's me, Hanamoto," she squeezed out. I looked at the face of this girl and realized that I didn't recognize her because a chunk of flesh at the bridge of her nose was cut and dangling off. She and I were neighborhood playmates. Now her face was terribly disfigured. Her wounds didn't disgust me, as everywhere you looked you saw distorted and horrific injuries. I took her to the first aid station at the eastern military training ground, and then I followed the Ujina train tracks towards my home in Oko. Fortunately, since I had been playing basketball back then, my high-top lace-up shoes didn't come off in the explosion and I was able to walk over the sizzling rubble.

 It was night by the time I arrived at my neighborhood. I stopped by the Hanamotos to tell them how I had left their daughter at the First Aid Station. I reached my house, which was more like a frame, with furniture and belongings tossed everywhere. My sister and her husband were there, and my mother was lying on the floor nearby. Nobody said a word to me.

 My family assumed I was dead since I was at school only 1 or 2 kilometers from the epicenter. My brother-in-law walked around in search for me. He checked the corpses of girls about my age. He even pulled out dead bodies with their heads dunked in the fire cisterns to check to see if I was one of them.
 At that time, my older brothers and sisters were already living away from home, and I was the only one who remained living with my parents. My father was at the Mitsubishi ship factory in Kanon when the bomb exploded. My mother was working at a building demolition site in Tsurumi Brige, and the scorching heat left terrible burns on the backside of her body. She was covered in burns from the back of her neck, down to her heels. Thanks to my brother-in-law, who was in the military, a medical officer and a few officers from the sanitation department came to care for my mother.

 It sounds disgusting but back then it was common to have maggots growing out of the wounds. One way to prevent this was to get a blood transfusion, but there wasn't enough blood. The sanitation officers told us that on the battlegrounds during blood shortage, soldiers would receive horse blood transfusions. They asked us if we were interested, and we decided that we would try anything. That was the only thing that could save my mother. After the transfusion I heard that you could treat burns by administering ground-up human bones. I went to Oko Grade School, where they had dug a hole in the school playground to make a crematorium. I picked up some bones, crushed them into powder, and applied it to my mother's back. I was beyond being disturbed by anything. When I was told that flowers were good for burns, I found flowers. Every day I dedicated myself to caring for my mother. I was experiencing diarrhea and losing my hair, but I wouldn't allow myself to be bothered by that. My father wandered the streets of the city even though they were polluted with radiation and toxic gas. He passed away in August the year after.

 My mother was taken to a first aid station in one of the barracks. Shortly after, she was transported on an American military sleeping car to the Navy Hospital in Otake. This was the first time that my mother saw the city in ruins. She cried and sighed over, and over as she lay on her stomach. The miserable sight of my mother, who used to be so strong, will remain forever in my memory, as a symbol of defeat.
 My mother recovered and left the hospital after about a year. She was healthy enough to be working in the fields, until one day about three years after the bombing she began to throw up everyday. There were pink roundworms in her vomit. She kept vomiting a mass of roundworms about the length of 10 to 15 centimeters into a basin. Looking back, I'm wondering if the horse blood transfusion wasn't at fault. She continued to throw up, suffering until the end of her life in July 1950. It still gives me the creeps to think about the roundworms that ate my mother alive from the inside out. But we did our best to save her life immediately after the bombing, and for that no one is to blame. It was thanks to the blood transfusion that my mother survived then. My suffering was nothing compared to hers.

 Although my parents died, thanks to the fact that I was in school at Jogakuin, I was given aid even after the war. Ms. McMillan also gave me much joy. Strangely, I did not feel resentment towards Americans regardless of the bombing. There wasn't much we could do about the anguish and misery that we experienced during the war. There was much to be done just in order to survive. Our hearts were hardened.
 At Jogakuin, we read the Bible and I felt the close presence of God. Losing my parents at such a young age, I frequently visited my parents' grave. I can withstand anything now that I have lived through such painful events. I believe the experiences after the bombing helped me become stronger as a human being.

 Until now, I never spoke to others about my experiences of the atomic bomb. It's not that I couldn't bear to reflect upon my memories. I just didn't want it to seem that I was lecturing the younger generation. I felt that if I spoke out, people would avoid me.
The year before last I heard from my classmate's family in Yokohama. My classmate was applying for A-Bomb Health Book and was looking for witnesses. It was Ms. Numabe, the classmate who saved my life by washing my bloody face at the water pump and leading me to safety. Prompted by the testimonial I gave as a witness, gradually I have begun speaking of my experiences to others.

 It is hard to believe that it has been 60 years now. I battled many illnesses. Currently I have a tumor in my thyroid gland. As I age, I worry that my health is compromised by the radiation from the atomic bomb.
 The message I have for the young generation is to never create war. Who wants to live in such a hateful state? During the war we were taught to hate Americans and sang despising songs on our way to the bomb shelters, without even knowing why. Nothing good comes from war. We humans are not enemies against each other. We must get along with our neighbors and give thanks for our lives. We must remember to be compassionate and live in harmony.

… 76 years old

(Dictated to and recorded by Hiromi Morita)