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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Mikiko Kagawa (female)
'Chokubaku'  2.5 km from the hypocenter / 15 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Those of us who have directly experienced the A-bombing know first-hand its horror and we can never forget the suffering it has caused. But now that we live in peace and prosperity, I am afraid the entire society has forgotten about the A-bombing or the war, which makes me somewhat uncertain about the future of our society. That is why I am strongly convinced that we hibakusha, victims of the A-bombing, must speak openly about the dangers caused by nuclear weapons. I believe this will give solace to the souls of those who died in the A-bombing, and will help not only Japan but the whole world in achieving genuine peace. A world without wars will only be attained by the effort of each one of us, and I am determined to make that effort myself.

My Experience of the Atomic Bombing

Although many people voice loudly their support to ban and abolish the nuclear weapons, several countries are constantly increasing their armament, thus making the outbreak of nuclear war more imminent. The thought of an outbreak of a nuclear war itself horrifies me. So I decided to gather up my courage to write and record my experience, with a hope that it will help in achieving a peaceful world without war.

However, when I take up the pen, I have great difficulty putting together the fragmented pieces of my memory into shape. This may be because, for more than 40 years, I have tried hard to refrain from recollecting those moments of extreme terror and violent shocks. Partly because I often lost consciousness hovering between life and death, I can now remember only bits of what I experienced. I regret very much that I cannot fully describe the misery and cruelty I have gone through.

When the atomic bomb was dropped, I was at the Railway Training School located at Ushita-machi, Hiroshima, about 2.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. As a fifteen-year-old student, I had been mobilized to work at a railway station and was sent to the school on August 2.

On that morning, the air-raid warning was lifted after breakfast. Feeling relieved, I had just started to run out into the school ground with my friend, who was also sent from the same station to the school. Suddenly I was blinded by a piercing flash of light and everything around me turned dark. Next moment, I felt I was engulfed in red flames and, with a tremendous sound, my body bashed onto something and I lost my senses.

When I regained consciousness, I found myself trapped under heavy broken timbers and was unable to move. Being choked by the falling dust, I could not utter a word. All around, I could hear the faint groans and loud cries of some calling for help. I wriggled hard but could not move an inch. Just when I thought it was all over for me, I heard the timber rattling over me. With a piercing pain, my whole body was thrown out into bright light.

I looked around and found my friend, who was hardly recognizable and appeared out of this world. Her clothes were in tatters and her face and arms were bleeding. Neither of us was able to make out what had happened, nor realized that we were saved by someone.

The enormous power of the A-bomb killed tens of thousands of people in a moment, and the entire city of Hiroshima was completely destroyed. So many people were scorched and injured in that disgusting flash. I later learned that more than 100 young women perished at the Railway Training School being buried alive under the fallen building. My friend suffered burns on her left cheek and arm, and my entire face, neck and both arms were burned. Had we not been blown away off our feet by the bomb blast, we too would have been trapped under the fallen school building.

My friend and I looked at each other, stood up and said "let's run away somewhere". But we were shocked to see all the buildings around us flattened and the area filled with smoke. Columns of fire flared up all around. We desperately followed the crowd of people running about in confusion. Most of them were severely injured. Someone had his bare back burned red and exposed, while some, being unable to stand due to a broken hip, or been paralyzed with fright, fell on the ground and called for help. A man was bleeding heavily, with an old wooden stick penetrating through his head. Another person was wobbly and fell on the ground vomiting blood from his mouth with a fragment of timber stuck in his chest. Some people cried repeatedly asking for water. I saw a large crowd of people in the river. They must have sought water to cool down the heavy blisters on their bodies caused by the burns.

On our way, I started to feel stiffness and pain on my face. Unconsciously I touched my face and was petrified to find a large part of the skin sloughing away and stinging painfully. I also found the skin on my right arm had peeled, was twisted and dangling. Not until then did I realize the heavy burns on my body and felt completely aghast.

Just then, I wanted to urinate, and it occurred to me that ammonia would help heal the burns. I collected the urine on my palm and patted it on my face and arms. I cannot imagine it now, but at that moment I did not hesitate at all. As far as we went, all we could see were piles of ruins and groups of injured people. Eventually we got tired and collapsed. But after a while, we felt insecure, and stood up again to return to the place we were at in the beginning.

That was when I suffered another shock. My burned face swelled up and my eyes felt completely blinded. Holding on tightly to my friend's hand, I desperately tumbled along with her to the place from where we had started. Not able to see anything, I lay down as per my friend's instructions. But it was extremely painful to expose my burned-out body to the scorching sun, and felt as if I was being executed by burning.

About that same moment, we heard the roaring sound of an airplane directly over us. With no place to hide, nor any strength to escape, I shriveled up in fear, thinking this should definitely be the end of me, and lost consciousness. I do not know how much time had passed before I heard a voice in the distance, "Bring along only the severely injured." After that I felt being pulled up by someone and lost all further memory of that day. Later I learned that my friend was left behind, while I was carried to a hospital in Yaga.
When I was awakened by the cries and screams of people, my first thought was that of being thrown deep down into the hell. It was literally a hell on Earth.
Even without eyesight, I was able to feel the heartbreaking situation of the people around me. Some hovered between life and death, while others prepared for death. I could hear the grievous cries of people around, and sometimes just next to me, piercing my ears. They suffered agonizing pain and died one after the other while calling for their parents, crying for water and groaning with pain.

What is still engraved in my mind is the last moment of a boy about ten years old. He cried again and again, "Mommy, hurry up and come help me. It's so painful. Give me water. Mommy, mommy…" Without anyone to attend to him, he died an agonizing death. Both his body and mind must have been torn apart and charred completely. I really loathe the A-bomb that mercilessly killed such cute innocent children and babies.

Those who died there were dragged away like rags, and replaced by other wounded persons carried in one after another. But no treatment was given to them, as rescuers were so tied up with the disposal of growing number of dead bodies. They might have been cremated nearby, as the whole area was filled with a dreadful stench of death that made it difficult to breathe.

I began to suffer from excruciating pain and intense thirst. Not knowing what to do with myself, I thought it was over, and my body would soon be stacked up on the pile of corpses like the others. The thought made my heart ache with sorrow and bitterness, and the images of my parents and brothers began to float around in my mind. Drifting off to unconsciousness, I suddenly heard a loud voice, "Are you not Mikiko? Wake up, Mikiko." He repeatedly called me. Is that my big brother? I jumped onto him. The sense of joy and relief I felt in my brother's arms, even though I could not see him, has become one of the sweetest memories for the rest of my life. Although he repeatedly said, "So you were alive. I am so glad," he was actually so shocked to find me badly injured and hardly recognizable that he was weeping inside.