The text area starts here.
For Those Who Pray for Peace
Leaving My Friend at the Platform
- Teruko Shigetomi (maiden name, Saeki)
53rd Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School before the war
Residing in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
For the first time in 60 years I am writing down about that day. I was a young student of 16. It was a time in my life when I was just beginning to blossom. Every morning I used to wake at 4:30 to leave my home by 5:20. I would walk 30 minutes to the Nishi Iwakuni Train Station. The small station was always crowded with students and commuters. I would join three other friends and sit together. Today the distance between Hiroshima and Iwakuni can be traveled in 40 minutes, but back then the train took 90 minutes. We would open the window, and black soot from the steam engine would fly in. We were poor, but our youth kept us vital as we worked hard as part of the Student Mobilization Workforce. By August of 1945, the devastation of the war had spread across the country. Fortunately, Hiroshima had not yet been bombed. Day after day we continued working for our country, under the hot sun at the Department of Railroads.
On the morning of the 6th, there was a precautionary warning before the train arrived at Hiroshima Station. Soon it escalated to an air raid warning. When there was a warning, students were usually sent home. Although it was not the most patriotic attitude, I was secretly happy about being able to go home. The train arrived at Hiroshima Station and I was about to get on a train back to Iwakuni, when not only was the air raid warning lifted, the precautionary warning also ended. My friends and I looked at one another and shrugged our shoulders: "too bad." We walked to the platform and met up with classmates who came from the direction of Kure. We waved good morning and chatted as we headed out of the station to walk to our worksites. Our friends from Kure said they wanted to take the streetcar to work and stayed on the platform at the streetcar line. I never would have dreamed that that would be the last time I saw them. The blast blew out the light of their lives as if they were fragile flowers.
We were walking under the blazing sun when, in an instant, there was a sudden,intense flash, sizzling heat, and roaring black smoke. I couldn't see anything. I thought I had died. I ran frantically. When I came to my senses, I realized my friends who were walking by my side were gone. My air raid hood was on fire. I panicked and tried to stamp it out but the air around me was so hot that I couldn't put it out completely. I found a tank of water and dunked it, and put it over my head while it was still drenched. I noticed both of my hands had been burned black and the skin was peeling off. Everything but my monpe pants was completely burned off but nobody laughed at the site of a girl half naked. This was a living hell.
I continuously think about how peaceful Japan is now. When we were young, the dark rapids of war swallowed us up, and many sacred lives were sacrificed. Now that I am done raising children, I feel like I am at my prime. I love people, nature, and poetry. I am whole-heartedly appreciating the joy of life.
…76 years old