The text area starts here.
For Those Who Pray for Peace
Headlines: "Killer Beam (?) in Hiroshima"
- Michiko Watanabe (maiden name, Eto)
2nd Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin College of Health
Residing in Takeda City, Oita Prefecture
The sun was shining mercilessly that morning, like any other summer day.
On August 6, 1945, I was 16 years old and a freshman at Hiroshima Jogakuin College. It was the third day at school on the campus in Kami-nagarekawa-cho. I was staying in the dorms and went to school after the air raid warning was lifted. The students were gathered at the Assembly Hall and were just finishing the morning chapel. As I was about to exit the chapel, there was a bright flash and a thunderous boom as if thousands of lightning bolts struck the ground. I got down on the floor and covered my eyes and ears. After a few moments, I heard students yelling, "Help me, teacher!" I'm not sure how long I was there.
When I opened my eyes, through the billowing dust, I could see the sky behind a beam that had fallen at an angle. They say people can muster up superhuman strength in an emergency. I climbed up the beam with little effort and stuck my head out over the roof. I slid down the roof and fell (or jumped) off the top of a fence and landed on the street in front of the school entrance. I checked on my friends who had also escaped. (I knew just a few students since it was only the third day of school.) We looked for a teacher to ask what our evacuation plan was. By the time they told us to go to the training field at Mt.Ushita, fires had started in patches.I joined a group of about ten students and followed a classmate who claimed to know how to get there. We traveled in a hurry.
I'm not sure what route we took. All I remember is everything seemed to be on fire: the trees, houses, streetcars, everything. Others ran along with us. Some with burned with tattered clothes and some had skin peeling off their faces. They were covered in burns, all over their bodies. Strangely, I was not afraid. As I ran, I thought about the gravity of the situation. Whatever bomb was dropped, it must have been huge. We came to a riverbank. I saw many more injured in the same state, around puddles of water. A soldier rowed a metal boat back and forth across the river. He said, "Women and children first". We reached the other shore, near Ushita. The training field was up in the mountain, but when we got there, nobody was around. I grew lonely and worried. Then a friend said she was going to head home so we stared walking again. We hiked over Mt.Ushita to Kabe. In the afternoon we stopped by a grade school and received a certificate and some rice balls. We continued on our journey. We passed through Koi and followed the train tracks, and by the time we got to my classmate's house in Kusatsu-cho, it was already dark. On the following day, the newspaper headlines read in bold letters "Killer Beam (?) in Hiroshima." As usual, they reported that, "There were very few Japanese casualties."
In October I received news that school was back in session. I attended a little while later. The classes were held in a shabby building with tin roofs. The desks and chairs were donated from the Navil Academy in Etajima. When it rained, lectures were very difficult to hear because the noise of the raindrops hitting the tin roof drowned out the teacher's voice. What surprised me the most was the number of students wearing hoods. When I asked them why, they told me it was because most of their hair fell out. I heard many horror stories of my classmates' encounters: "My father and I are the only survivors of our family." "A person on fire ran out of a burning home and fell over by the river." "There were so many dead bodies that crematoriums couldn't burn them fast enough. They turned all the parks in the city into cremation sites." I spent the remaining two years of my student life in the recovering city of Hiroshima.
The burned field of Hiroshima has been transformed into a booming city, and hardly anything remains that would remind one of the horrible bombing. However, many are suffering from the aftereffects and I am not alone in my efforts to prevent a nuclear tragedy from happening again.
When I look back over 60 years, I realize I have spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in wartime. The war robbed us of the best years of our lives. What were children taught during the war? They deprived us of our studies and sent us to work, calling it a "holy war." I learned the saying "Victory or death," only to find out years later what it meant was to kill people. After graduation I worked as a teacher and was put in the position to advocate the importance of peace. When I speak to students, I must teach them that war breeds victims as well as aggressors. It is difficult to teach young people exactly what it means to be living in peace. I live in fear that we may be walking down the path to war again.
… 76 years old