By HIKARU YOKOYAMA/ Staff Writer
August 10, 2020 at 16:54 JST
NAGASAKI--When the atomic bomb detonated over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, 14-year-old Shigemi Fukahori was working in a shipyard.
The horrors he saw that day were forever emblazoned in his mind, such as the countless numbers of charred bodies piling up in a river in the city.
“I could not tell whether they were still alive or not,” said Fukahori, 89, as he delivered an address on behalf of hibakusha during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing on Aug. 9. “I occasionally heard cries of ‘water, water’ coming from those bodies, but I could not help them.”
Fukahori lost four family members himself. They were among the 74,000 lives that the world’s second atomic bomb claimed by the end of 1945.
In his address, known as the Pledge for Peace, Fukahori, who still resides in Nagasaki, said he became numb in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
“To my surprise, I did not cry over my relatives' deaths maybe because I had seen so many dead,” he said during the ceremony held at Nagasaki Peace Park. “Looking back on it now, I must have been in an abnormal mental state.”
Fukahori was born to a Catholic family. He had a strong yearning for peace, but he did not share his horrific experiences even with his own children.
His thinking at that time was that only those who went through the war can understand the brutality of the fighting.
But that changed 10 years ago when he visited Guernica, Spain. Fukahori relived his feelings of fear while listening to an account given by a man who experienced the bombing of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.
The man said he was 14 at the time, just like Fukahori.
Through the encounter with the man, Fukahori became convinced of the importance of passing on his wartime experiences to younger generations to convey the horrors of war.
He began giving his account to high school students visiting the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki from many parts of the country on school trips as part of their peace studies. The cathedral is where he visits to pray as a Christian.
The current cathedral was rebuilt in 1959 after the original red-brick structure was destroyed by the blast of the plutonium bomb.
Fukahori tells his story several times a year. He is aware that the younger generation may not be able to grasp all of what he is attempting to convey to them.
He once declined when asked to give the Pledge for Peace representing atomic bomb survivors. He felt the task was too overwhelming for him.
But he changed his mind after he heard the message issued by Pope Francis last year: peace and international stability “can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation.”
Fukahori took that the message to heart and decided to take the podium.
“I am hoping that as many people as possible will bond with each other, particularly young people,” he said in his address. “I would like to ask them to firmly take the baton for peace from us and keep running for the future.”
Before concluding his remarks, Fukahori promised to do his part as well.
“I am determined to continue to appeal to global audiences that Nagasaki should be the world’s last site where an atomic bomb was dropped,” he said.
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