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For Those Who Pray for Peace
Unforgettable Day

Kazuko Kawamoto (maiden name, Fujikawa)
54th Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School before the war
Residing in Yokohama City, Kanagawa prefecture

 For about a year prior to the bombing, I was working at the Toyo Kogyo (currently, Mazda) as part of the Student Mobilization Workforce. I made small parts for guns. That day there was a precautionary warning siren around 7 a.m. I heard the familiar high-pitched sound of the B-29 fighter plane overhead. Soon after, the warning was lifted. I hurried to Hiroshima Station to catch the train that leaves before 8 o'clock. My house was on the 36th block of Teppo-cho in Hiroshima City, near the Hakushima streetcar line in front of Hiroshima Jogakuin. I arrived at Mukainada Station and joined the group of people that worked at factory No. 7. I went to the water fountain behind the factory building, with a few friends, before beginning work. I heard the sound of a B-29 again and looked up. Suddenly there was a bright flash in the sky over Hiroshima City, and before I could think of what it was, a huge towering white cloud formed. I watched the cloud turn red, yellow and blue. As soon as I said it looked like a rainbow, I was blown off my feet and fell to the floor of the factory. After a while, I opened my eyes and looked around but couldn't see anything in the dusty darkness. I walked out to the water fountain. I saw black billowing smoke over Hiroshima. I realized that the city had been bombed.

 Students gathered around the front gate. Nobody knew what had happened and time simply passed, as we grew anxious. By and by, people with bare feet and tattered clothes started to pass on the street, in front of the factory. They were headed towards Kaita. One by one, we asked them where the bomb had been dropped, but their responses were all the same, "Somewhere near me." It didn't make any sense. I wondered what had become of my home and my family. What should I do? My head was in a panic. But I was too busy to get lost in my thoughts. There were many injured people being brought to the factory, and we had to administer first aid.

 The teacher suggested we should walk as far as we could before sunset. We got into groups by neighborhood and headed towards the city. We went past the Kirin Beer factory in Fuchu-cho and finally came to the eastern military training ground (currently, the bullet train entrance of Hiroshima Station). We couldn't get any closer to the city center because of the fire and ended up returning to Toyo Kogyo. We spent the night watching the sky, above Hiroshima, glowing red. I told myself over and over that my home and family were safe. We all must have been saying the same prayers.

 At daybreak on the 7, I traveled with the same group along the same route and arrived at Hiroshima Station. What I saw there was nothing but a burned field framed by the Koi Mountains in the west. "What's this?" I couldn't contain my words of surprise. Judging by this site, there was no chance of my house surviving the fire. But I continued to tell myself that my mother and sisters must have escaped. I hurried toward my neighborhood with a friend. I saw my first charred dead body at Tokiwa Bridge. Startled, I ran away. It was frightening.

 Then I saw many other dead bodies in different but dreadful shapes, and each time I ran in disgust. When I arrived at the site of my home, there was nothing left of it. Except for the fire cistern, kitchen sink, oven, and bathtub, everything else that could catch ablaze had burned. I lost the strength in my legs and sat down, only to have to stand up again since the ground was still simmering. We used to wear getas back then, and I had to keep stepping around to keep my feet from getting burned. I walked around the house to look for some remains; some sign that would help me decide what to do next. But I was out of luck. I stood, staring vacantly at the ashes.

 Then I saw the one thing that brought me some relief. My favorite cat was curled up under the sink. I carefully reached over to touch her, but she dashed away. I chased after her but couldn't catch up. I said to myself again that if the cat survived, I'm sure my mother and sisters are fine, too. Once again, I stood around in a stupor until other survivors began to arrive in the neighborhood and told me that most people who escaped from here ended up in Sentei Garden (Shukkeien) or Nigitsu Shrine. I rushed to Sentei Garden first. There were many injured and burned people with glass shards stuck in their bodies. Soldiers had round marks on their head where their helmets had protected them, but their faces below their eyebrows were burned. Their heads looked like soccer balls, and their swollen faces were indistinguishable from one another. The sight was so awful that I doubted that these were actually human beings. Dead bodies lay everywhere. I couldn't look anymore. It was terrible. I was nauseated. I left for the Nigitsu Shrine.

 There I met my next-door neighbor, Ms. Toda's mother, and grandfather. I was so glad to see them. Surely this meant that my mother and sisters were fine. But before I could ask about them, Ms. Toda said "I didn't see anyone from your family. They probably didn't escape since they lived on the second floor." I sat down in despair. Grandpa Toda told me to try searching the area and check the eastern military training gound. I continued to walk around until dark but didn't find any leads. I was getting frightened by all of the dead bodies and didn't know what to do in my loneliness. A passerby told me that the Danbara area survived the fire, and I remembered that my mother's siblings' house was there. Their house was damaged but I found my uncle in front of the Hiroshima Joshisyo High School of Commerce for Women. I cried out with joy. I told him of my situation and stayed overnight at his place.

 Early morning on the 8th, my uncle and I loaded a cart with a bucket and shovels and returned to my burned down house. We poked around and finally I found something I didn't want to find. It was my mother's gold tooth. I found some bones by the front door that undoubtedly belonged to my mother, and near the kitchen, a skull that must have belonged to one of my sisters. I cried to the skull; "How could you let this happen? Why did you die? Couldn't you have run away?" I filled the bucket with bones as I cried and cursed. Finally at my uncle's urging, I gathered myself together and we returned to Danbara.

 On the 9th I went to Naka-fukawa where we had stored some belongings. My mother's sister and niece welcomed me to their house. I told them of the fate of my mother and sisters, and we all cried together. A week later I was shocked to receive news that my oldest sister was alive. On August 6, my oldest sister, who lived next door, was in the back yard and didn't get crushed by the house. She was burned on her arm and was cut by shattered glass but managed to flee to Naka-fukawa. She was very weak from losing her appetite and suffering from diarrhea, and she asked my aunt not to tell me of her condition. Then suddenly my sister wanted to see her 10-year-old daughter and grandmother, who were taking refuge in Konu-gun. So I took her on a train and a bus and just barely made it there. She was granted her last wish.

 I stayed overnight in Konu-gun and returned to Naka-fukawa. I roamed the streets of Hiroshima, looking at names posted at the refugee sites. Those were sorrowful days. We weren't able to identify the bones of my sister's 4, and 6-year-old children. My brother-in-law was missing after being out of town on business. My mother, two sisters, and the 4-year-old child of my third oldest sister all died in the house. (I'm the fifth daughter of the family.) My sister who was closest to me in age had stayed home after switching shifts with a friend at the Inokuchi branch office of the Akatsuki Troop. The third oldest sister was living back at our house after her husband had been drafted. My oldest sister, who fled to Konu-gun, died on September 1st. Her hair fell out in clumps, her skin turned purple and she was bleeding from her pores. I heard it was a cruel death. Her 10-year-old daughter said, "Mommy is a monster," and wouldn't get near her. This powerful bomb was truly hideous.

 It was sometime later that I heard that this bomb was a new type called the atomic bomb. The horror and cruelty of war struck my whole being, and all I could do was to ask in vain; "Why?"

 I don't know the fate of most of my neighbors. I don't remember too much about my friends in grade school and high school. The young children of the war went to heaven without ever knowing the taste of white rice and candy, or the fun games children are meant to play.

 Today we live in an era where we can buy anything we want. We take many things for granted.

 We must remember that our lives today are built upon the sacrifices made by the war victims. We must appreciate this peaceful time. I am finally able to speak to my three children about August 6. I didn't want to expose them to such terrible stories until they grew up. Seven years ago when we visited Hiroshima, I took them to the A-bomb Museum. Each of them seemed to be lost in their own thoughts. I told them how important it was for them to accept my distant past, now that I am an old lady.

 We should never allow war to happen again. War destroys everything. War empties people's hearts and wipes out all hope and dreams. I want to value the life I have been given. The feeling, that in this time of peace people have forgotten to appreciate the precious nature of life, bothers me.

 After the bombing, I attended school for a year. My friend who attended school wearing a scarf over her head to hide her baldness died several years later. As the years went by, many young people died of atomic bomb disease. There are many who are still ailing from the aftereffects of radiation. They are now all seniors like myself. I lived life to the best of my ability, as if my eight deceased family members had handed over their lives to me. I feel happy that I have been able to outlive my mother's age. I give thanks to the souls that have passed: although turbulent, my life has continued for 60 years after the bomb. I close this story with my appreciation to all beings.

… 75 years old