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For Those Who Pray for Peace
My A-Bomb Experience

Etsuko Nishimoto Bundy (maiden name, Nishimoto)
8th Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School, 8th Graduating Class of University of English Residing in Georgia, U.S.A.

 For more than a few weeks eyes of the world have been focused on the tsunami victims in Asia and Africa. Television, radio, and newspapers are reporting the catastrophic disasters caused by the earthquake six miles under the ocean, which caused more than 210,000 lost lives and destruction beyond imagination. Lines and lines of dead bodies spread on the ground, and people desperate to find their lost ones. This news brought back vivid memories of August 6,1945, when I was seven years old. Everyone remembers that historic day when the first A-bomb was dropped over Hiroshima,my home town. Many people were killed, burned,and hurt. Many houses were destroyed. Parents lost their children, and children their parents.

 My parents owned a kitchen equipment store in Yokogawa. My parents, next oldest sister, Yoshiko, and I lived on the second floor of the store. My second oldest sister, Toshiko, lived in the main house in Uchikoshi, which is between the store and a shelter house that was completed the day before the bomb was dropped. The shelter house was at the foot of a hill in a bamboo grove, and in front of it the Ota River was running. It was 2 km(1.2 miles) away from the bomb's hypocenter. My oldest sister, Reiko, was in Tokyo studying at medical school, and my third oldest sister, Sachiko, was sent to the country with her schoolmates.

 The night before the bomb, mother insisted that we move to the shelter house. She took Yoshiko's and my hands, and she sang funny songs on the way to the shelter house. She let me carry money in a box, which made me happy. Father stayed at his store. The next morning we got up early. We gathered up wood shavings and cleaned up the mess the carpenters left. We started a fire to burn this trash. Yoshiko and I were fighting over who would use the bathroom first in the new house.

 That morning we did not want to go to school. We played hookey and stayed home. Our Misasa Grade School building was occupied by soldiers, so we studied at our neighbor's house. I do not remember hearing airplanes, warning sirens, a loud explosive sound or seeing any flashing light or mushroom cloud. All I remember is I was blown some distance from where I was into a barley field, and felt like I was wrapped in a yellowish, smelly veil. I called for mother. " Mother, mother, where are you? Sister, where are you?" We found each other. My neck felt as if it were hit by a cannon ball. Hot! So hot ! We three stepped in the river to soothe our wounds.

 Realizing we were hurt, mother decided to take us to Misasa Grade School, which was supposed to be an emergency treatment center. We started to walk the narrow street toward the school. Houses along the street had fallen down. People were crying out for help, because they were pinned under the fallen houses. " Help, help me !" they cried. We did not feel like helping anyone. We must have been in shock. We passed by the main house where Toshiko lived, and that house had fallen down flat. We made a casual remark, " Poor Toshiko, she must be dead !"

 First we thought the enemy had dropped the bomb directly over the fire we had started, but as we walked we were amazed at the wide area of destruction. What kind of bomb did they drop to cause such destruction, we wondered? Soon houses started to burn all around us. Sensing the danger, mother decided to turn back to the shelter house. As we walked back we saw many people walking aimlessly like zombies. They did not know what had happened, what to do, or where to go. Some had no hair or clothes. Their bodies were cut and bloody, burned and swollen. Some had their skin hanging down.

 Lines and lines of bodies were lying along the road near the river, and they were lying with both of their arms raised and their eyes wide open. Big eyes and raised arms looked strange and weird to me. People were begging for water. "Water, water, please give me water!" Returning to the shelter house, we found Father and Toshiko there. Toshiko's beautiful face was covered with blood. She had heard the plane and was outside between the main house and a storage shed, with a Japanese fan watching the plane. Since she was outside she was saved, because the house was flattened. Father's head, face, neck, and arm were burned. He was supposed to have been down in the city that morning, close to where the bomb was dropped, to train students in civil defense. Because one of his bike tires was flat that morning, he was delayed in leaving for his duties downtown and was outside having the tire fixed. Because of this, his life was saved. It is God's grace that none of my family perished that day.

 Half of the shelter house was downed by the blast, showing long nails hanging from the beams. The neighbor's house, next door to the shelter house, started to burn. People put out the fire by passing bucketsful of water from the river. Soon afterward black rain started to fall. "Our enemy must be pouring gasoline over us. They are going to light it to make sure none of us would survive," we thought. The sun was extraordinarily huge and bright crimson red that morning. So impressive! People were asking if we had seen such and such boys and girls.

 Later, I found I could not move my feet and walk. Our country friend came and took us to our aunt's house in Midorii, a couple of towns away. This friend carried me on his back all the way. On the way there we received a rice ball from someone as nourishment. I had blisters on both of my arms, neck, thigh, and leg. A country doctor looked at the wounded survivors and gave a quick treatment. I don't remember whether or not the doctor cut the blisters, drained the water, put on some medicine, and wrapped the burns. We stayed at our aunt's house for ten days, and then went back to the shelter house.

 I cleaned the burn with boiled water every day. Still, some days I saw maggots on my foot. It took twelve weeks for the burns to heal. I let no one touch my burns. God has graciously wiped away the memory of the severe pain and the ordeal to keep the burned areas clean. Mother and sisters told me how painfully I cried each time I cleaned the burned spots. I am amazed that God healed the burn in three months without medical aids and without getting infected.

 Physical wounds get healed, but psychological wounds take a much longer time to heal. Every time Don, my husband, would ask me to peel off his sunburned skin, I felt like throwing up. It must have stirred up hidden memories of the pain I felt in cleaning the burns. Also, each time I would hear the sirens of fire engines or ambulances I would jump. Even though I don't remember hearing sirens before the bomb was dropped, I must have heard them. I had a hard time eating fish cooked on a hibachi, since many days dead bodies were being cremated close to the shelter house. Stench from that stayed with me for a long time.

 I tried to hide the A-bomb experience deep in my mind. I wanted to forget it. I did not want to tell the story to anyone. Being a survivor was like being branded "undesirable" and "no good." "Is there anyone who would like to marry me? Isn't it easier to die than keep living?" I wondered. One day my sister, Sachiko, said, "Etsu-chan, some day you will be happy you had this A-bomb experience." "Never! How could that be? Happy? No way!"

 This is the 60th anniversary of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Not too many survivors are left. It's all right to talk about the bitter experience so that the same mistakes won't be repeated, but if we dwell on the miserable experience of the past and try to blame a people or nation, it's not all right with me. I don't want any part of using this bitter experience against any one or any country. People suffer unfairly in different ways―sickness and disease, loss of loved ones, divorce, financial loss, broken relationships, etc. To each one, suffering is as real and painful as what I went through. Do we blame God or others? No! A big no!

 I have experienced other pains and sufferings in my life―my left kidney was removed because of malfunction, we lost our only daughter with breast cancer, our son became divorced, etc. Any kind of suffering, man-made or natural, is painful. But to those who love God, we can see his loving hands at work, his mercy and grace turning bitter experiences into sweet ones for our good. In Romans 8:28 (NIV) of the Bible it says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

 God allowed me to live long enough to see this promise fulfilled in my life. It is a long story to tell, but I see his goodness and mercy throughout my life, for which I am greatly thankful. One of my greatest concerns about being a survivor was in being able to get married and have a family, but God blessed me in this. During the summer of 1958, while I was in my sophomore year at Hiroshima Jogakuin, I was invited to attend a 2-week seminar in Kobe involving college students from many nations. This seminar was sponsored by the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), and the theme of the seminar was "If you don't want war, prepare for peace." Because of my A-bomb experience, Mac Sensei, (Ms. Mary McMillan) and my mother encouraged me to participate. Mac Sensei, who was my dear teacher and counselor, said, "Maybe you can help others to understand the suffering and pain caused by wars." So I applied for the seminar, but felt heavy in my heart because I didn't have confidence in my ability to speak English for the two-week period of the seminar.

 There at the seminar I met Don. We fell in love "at first sight", but I went on to complete college, and he returned to America. In July 1960, soon after graduating from Hiroshima Jogakuin, I flew to the United States, and Don and I were married in Pasadena, California, where Don was living at the time. We have now been married for 44 years and been blessed with 3 children and 8 grandchildren.

 I am thankful for the blessings God has granted me to enjoy my life with a family of my own, and for warm-hearted and loving friends here in America and in Japan. I am also thankful for freedom to be myself, for this beautiful country, for opportunities to study the Bible at church and other places and getting to know Jesus more personally, for fellowship with deeply committed Christians, for strength and energy to live every day, and for assurance I have of eternal life with Jesus. His ways and thoughts are much greater than ours. He is the creator of everything. He is the ruler of the universe. He is love. He knows what is best for each of us. He disciplines those whom he loves, and he wants to have a relationship with each of us. When we believe in Jesus for what he did for us, dying on the cross to pay the ransom for our sin, we can come boldly to the throne of God as his sons and daughters, and have relationships with him both here on earth and in heaven.

 I believe peace and security will come only from God. As long as man has evil desires within, war rages. We covet what others have―power, money, fame, etc.---and when we can't get it we fight. When we learn to trust and obey Jesus we will be content. When he comes back to this earth to establish his kingdom, then, and only then, will everlasting peace be obtained. Come Jesus, come. I thank God for Hiroshima Jogakuin for introducing Christ to me and for shaping my life. …69 years old