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For Those Who Pray for Peace
PURPOSE OF MY LIFE AND THE ROAD TO WORLD PEACE
Dedicated to my friends and classmates who lost their lives.
- Kazuko Kay(maiden name,tsuno)
56th Graduating Class of Hiroshima High School before the war,2nd Graduating Class of University of English Residing in Oregon,U.S.A.
It was 60 years ago this month when Hiroshima City was destroyed by a single atomic bomb. I was just l3 years old, a junior high school student at Hiroshima Jogakuin. In an instant flash my classmates and hundreds of thousands of people were killed by the powerful force of the bomb. The entire city was reduced to rubble and ashes. A few days later, a second bomb was dropped in Nagasaki, resulting in similar destruction. Japan soon surrendered after witnessing the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the Western world, the atomic bomb was hailed as the deciding factor in winning the war. Prior to this event, Hiroshima city was unknown to many outside of Japan. Since then, the city and its surviving residents have become a symbol for world peace and a message against nuclear weapons.
In today's Japan, the memory of the atomic bomb has faded in a world where economic growth and computer technology have helped a previously war-torn nation prosper. In fact, Japan has renewed its society, people, and economy, attaining the second largest economy in the world. My generation is proud of participating in this rebuilding of Japan. However, together with power and economic strength should come responsibility and promotion of world peace. Therefore, more important is our responsibility towards future generations. We must act as messengers against war and nuclear weapons, spreading the word of our tragic experiences sixty years ago.
SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH
A few days ago, I celebrated my 73rd birthday in Eugene, Oregon, USA, where my son resides and where my husband and I have retired. My two darling grandchildren, Paul (8 years old) and Sarah (7 years old), brought me a birthday cake that they had purchased with their own little savings. Their idea was to give the "best gift" to their grandmother. On top of the cake was written and decorated, "Happy Birthday, Our Dear Grandma" together with pink and white flowers. On my birthday card they wrote, "My perfect grandma" and "the best grandma anyone could ever have". My other grandson, Jonathan (7 years old), from New York wrote, "We love you and may you have many more birthdays to come". To me, the innocence and purity of these messages represent the beautiful bond of love and respect in any human relationship. The cake and cards were not simply gifts, but also symbols of love and hope. I wish and pray that coming generations can achieve world peace and make an even better world, so that all children's great potentials can be both developed and realized.
In retrospect, my life has been a long journey of experiences that has shaped and made the person that I am today. Indeed, I have been fortunate enough to have lived this long and to have had the opportunity to receive overwhelming affection and joy from my three grandchildren. My life has truly been blessed, meaningful, and gratifying. But I believe that each person has a purpose in life. Why did I survive the atomic bomb and war when thousands of my countrymen perished? Was I just lucky? No, I believe that with my survival comes a responsibility.
I would like to share my experiences of the war.
Hiroshima city is my dear hometown. It is a beautiful city surrounded by hills, mountains, and seven rivers. It was where I was born, went to school, and grew up. During my childhood, Hiroshima represented to me the safety of home, a city that offered a great part of my happiness in life. I had the happiest childhood any one could ask for. Although I knew Japan was at war, I felt safe and unaffected in Hiroshima, together with my friends and family. Then one day all of that changed.
I was in Hiroshima on that fateful day, August 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped. This day was the most important day in my life. It represented my saddest, most heart-broken day. At the same time, it also represented a miracle.
I was only l3 years old. On Sunday, August 5, my family went to the outskirts of Hiroshima for a picnic. I had a wonderful day, playing and swimming with my cousins and family. The next day, Monday morning, a fatal day, I was so tired and exhausted I just simply could not get out of bed to go to school. Even my childhood friend, Tae-chan, came by to my bedroom and asked me to go to school with her. It was so strange; my body felt so tired and heavy that I simply could not get up. That day I stayed home. This marked the first day of absence in my entire school life. My poor Tae-chan went to school without me. One hour later, at 8:15 in the morning, the atomic bomb was dropped in the center of Hiroshima City ,where my school was located. On that day, the majority of students who went to school never returned home. Their innocent and precious lives were taken away from them unfairly and abruptly. Those few who were able to survive, albeit momentarily, soon succumbed to the devastating effects of radiation. I lost all my classmates who went to the school that fateful day.
My dear friend Tae-chan was one of the few who survived, but was barely able to make it home. Her whole body was badly burned and her eyes were swollen shut. She collapsed in front of her house gate. Despite heroic efforts to save her life, she passed away one hour later in the arms of her loving parents. The memory of her stopping by my house that morning is forever burned in my memory. Imagine, she was worried about my health that morning, and now she was dead. I was devastated. The bomb took her life away without reason. As a matter of one-hour difference, Tae-chan and I were separated from each other by death and life. She was only 12 years old. Tae-chan was my best friend. I was a "city girl" at heart, but Tae-chan loved nature. She taught me how to climb mountains, gather firewood, collect edible wild plants, catch fireflies, i.e. how to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and wonders of nature. We enjoyed being outside together, acquiring a sense of tranquility and harmony in life. My childhood was filled with happiness and joy, in part due to Tae-chan's friendship. Tae-chan is one of my dearest friends whom I will not and cannot forget.
Another one of my dearest friends and classmates, Masako-san, was also killed by the atomic bomb. A few weeks after her death, her mother came to visit me and shared the last moments of her life. Similar to Tae-chan, Masako-san was also badly burned and barely able to return home, where her mother was anxiously waiting. Although she was severely injured, her mind was clear. She was able to ask her mother if I was okay, because she did not see me at school that day. Just a few days before the bomb was dropped, I had stopped by her house to give her two summer peaches. Because of the war, such delicacies were rare and I still remember Masako-san's face, grinning ear to ear, as if I had given her two precious jewels. On her deathbed, she asked her mother for the peaches I had given her. She took one bite of the peach and said, "Ah, oishii" (delicious). It was her last word.
To this day, I have kept Tae-chan's and Masako-san's friendships close to my heart. As a survivor of such senseless destruction, I have felt a strong responsibility to make sure my friends did not die in vain. These experiences have influenced me to look forward in a positive light, giving me strength and determination to achieve my resolve.
Since then, I have dedicated and committed my life towards world peace. I have spoken on many occasions in both the United States and Asia on the topic of "Hiroshima and Peace". I have shared my experiences about the atomic bomb and war. Every time I tell my story, I have not been able to control my emotions or tears.
It was a time of great tragedy in our history. Overnight Hiroshima city was transformed from a beautiful city to a dark, empty, lonely graveyard. Beloved friends and family members were lost, many of them innocent children, women and elderly. It was a heart-breaking experience for a thirteen-year-old girl. I still miss my friends Tae-chan and Masako-san dearly. I become sad when I think about how their precious lives were taken away from them without any mercy. I think of them often and my heart aches bitterly for them. "Farewell, my dear friends and classmates. I promise your deaths will not be in vain." The senseless deaths of my friends and thousands of others should represent a powerful message against war and a foundation for the building of world peace. Today, Hiroshima city has transformed from a symbol of war tragedy into a proud symbol of hope and world peace.
Looking back at my life, I see a long journey leading to where I am today. After my experiences of the war, I went though a long period of soul searching for the truth. My mission school Jogakuin and family education provided me with an answer to my search: God has a special mission for my life. It was not a mere coincidence that I was absent from school the day the atomic bomb fell. I was alive because I had a special purpose in life. My strong desire was to become a social worker and peace worker. I wanted to help the less fortunate and to spread the word of peace. As a result, I have spent most of my career life as a social worker and educator, promoting the importance of peace and harmony in various countries such as the Philippines, Japan, Korea and the United States.
I cannot stress enough the importance of education in my life, for through its encouraging and supportive environment I was able to grow both mentally and spiritually. The foundation for my education started with my Christian schooling at Hiroshima Jogakuin. I attended Jogakuin for a period of ten years, from junior high school through undergraduate college. As a result of my education there, I was taught strong fundamental Christian values together with my academic curriculum. My mother and two sisters are also graduates of the same school. My family was the "Jogakuin" family. I am proud to be a product of Jogakuin, and I share this honor with many other outstanding graduates who have become selfless contributing members of society due to the special and privileged education we received. Even before I graduated from college I knew I wanted to further my education abroad. I trusted God that He would help me achieve my purpose in life. This opportunity came sooner than I expected. Through will, determination, faith and God's guiding hand, I was able to pursue a higher education in the United States with support of scholarships provided by Hiroshima Jogakuin, University of Wisconsin, and PEO Sisterhood scholarship organization. The importance of woman's development and contribution to society was always reaffirmed by my strong Christian faith and my promise to my friends and classmates. Every day I have tried to remember my journey and goal. Even though my life represents a small scale compared to the rest of the world, I stand and speak for world peace and harmony. I stand for, "No more Hiroshima."
The 20th century imparted numerous unforgettable lessons to my generation, both tragic and favorable. We learned from our teachers and history books about World War I, but experienced first hand the harsh reality of World War II. In this war Japan was an offending aggressor, but the majority of her citizens were the unfortunate victims and "casualties of war". We suffered the incessant bombing raids day and night, which ultimately culminated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before the end of that terrifying war. Although there remain many controversies over the use of the atomic bomb and nuclear warfare, this act is considered by many as not only dire cruelty but also an act against humanity. This legacy of war should be forever remembered not only by our generation but also by all future generations, in Japan and the rest of the world.
Japan's history teaches us how important it is to reflect on and learn from the past and to take a positive posture in redeeming and working earnestly toward the enhancement and well being of a harmonious world community. War is a terrible experience to any generation. Even one human life is too valuable to lose. We must work together as citizens of the world. We must rise above our own selfish interests to ensure a safer environment and world peace for our children, grandchildren, and all future generations. These issues represent the challenge and agenda for generations to come, so that history will not repeat such human-made misery and destruction brought on by war. Today peace bells ring high and loud from the city of Hiroshima for world peace.
…73 years old