AUGUST 9th, 1945
“I’m thirsty. Give me some water, please.”
“Ohhh, my legs have so much pain and trembling.”
“I am Sayuri Minamoto of Senda-machi, help me!!!”
“Somebody come and save me!”
I was coming to the exit of the dream world and approaching reality. I could notice that I was not in the same place where I had sat down a few days ago. I sensed the air remained quite stagnant and could hear echoes of people talking. It seemed like I was carried to the hospital in Takanobashi while I lost my consciousness. I felt as though something heavy was pressing on my body, and when I tried to open my eyelids,
I didn’t want to, but couldn’t help but give a groan. It felt like strong glue was on them. I rubbed my eyes hard to force them open and looked all around.
I was astonished and caught my breath at the horrible scene. A tremendous number of refugees were lying there with no clothes on. They were completely not holding their original state, or rather they looked like burned-out monsters. Flies were thick around the festering bodies, and nobody bad enough energy to shake them off. They were lying down without being given any medical treatment.
I had injuries over half of my body and the flesh was even gouged away, but compared to those victims, I was really lucky that I could move by myself. I thought it was due to my amulet, which was half burned and turned to black, but clasped for a while wishing that my family was safe. Then, I tried to go out and see what was going on. I pushed hard with my right foot and pulled up my left one with all my might and walked outside, dragging my legs. Abruptly I broke free.
“Where am I?”
“What in the world can be going on…?”
Hiroshima was changed into a melting pot of terrified confusion. The vacant ground spread out endlessly. All I could see were some tents set up for first aid and the flames of a streetcar, which loaded coal that blazed down and then turned black. Only the black color was there. Nothing more than that.
After I came back to my room, I talked to a lady who was lying next to me for a few minutes about our situation while we were bombed. Her hair was totally burned out and the right side of her body was peeled off and all red.
Before sunset on that day, one third of the people who were in the same hospital, died. Even I started thinking that I might die soon. And if so, I wanted to see my family before I died. I already didn’t know where I was and how I was. I became unconscious again because of such a shocking tragedy.
At last we welcomed night of that day and a small sweet potato and a few rice balls were distributed to us from the rescue members.
“Smells yummy…” a little boy who was lying next to me murmured in a powerless voice. I was hungry because I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning on the 6th. I tried to eat, but couldn’t, I guess, due to the failing of my strength. However, I told in self that I must get better, find my family and help other suffering people after I recovered.
At first, I thought about my family. I didn’t want to think that those dead people who I had seen on my way here were my family. I whispered in my mind, “No! They did not die and leave me alone! I’m sure they must be evacuated somewhere and they are living safely.”
Third day after the bombing ended.
zzzzzzz… one beautiful summer day, I went to the beach with my family. At first, we children were playing on the shore and my parents were sunbathing behind us. The waves were calm and the time had been passing slowly. Then we got into the water all together and were making merry. Suddenly, we heard our little brother Jiro’s crying. He was drowning 30 meters away from us and we swam for our lives to reach him. However much we swam, we couldn’t reach him……… Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
I couldn’t stay motionless any longer. Then somebody touched my shoulder. There were beads of sweat on my body and my head was not clear at all. I didn’t understand what was going on between the real world and the other world. However at the next moment, I came to myself. My big sister was standing right there!
“Are you my sister, Sayuri Minamoto?” she asked me.
“Ah!” Suddenly, I jumped up to her and we cried in each other’s arms. We didn’t need a word. I smiled all over for the first time since the bombing. She came back to Hiroshima from Okunojima and had been looking for my family members for four days. I talked to her about what happened and all of the incidents in Hiroshima. While I was talking, she was crying. But we had something that we had to do. Our top priority was to find our other family members.
When we finished talking, she left my hospital and went look for them again. I didn’t have enough strength, so decided to stay there that day.
I went to sleep for a few hours and woke up with a good feeling. I casually looked around and then turned my eyes aside me. The woman who I talked with the day before was not there. She might have passed away. I thought the situation was getting worse. On this side and on that, people who were dying everyday could hardly be distinguished from the living. A person who was talking cheerfully yesterday was a cold dead body this morning. This kind of thought brought me an indescribably forlorn feeling.
I couldn’t stay in a normal state, but the rice was rationed out to us soon after as a lunch. And we were supposed to take the first treatment from sanitary members that afternoon. I didn’t think they were going to heal my wound perfectly, but I had a little hope that they would save my life.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” I screamed! A person who looked like a doctor was giving me an injection in my arm. He had a bandage on his head and face, which bid almost all his body. And be was wearing a white coat that was stained with blood. The doctors who had been burned out of their homes got together and opened an emergency clinic and now they were visiting some hospitals. But it was too much to expect that any doctors should know a perfect way of treating this kind of horrible sickness. My body might have been numbed, but having a pain. I abruptly recovered my senses that had not been lost. I surely felt “LIFE” in a dim consciousness.
My body was as good as naked. My shirts were ragged, but thanks to my inspiration wearing two shirts, my skin was not burned a lot. I had a lot of pus on the burned bottom half of my body. My skin became very black and peeled off. My face and from my wrists to my fingertips were swelled up like a burned ball. The doctor wiped the marks of my burn silently with a cloth, which was dipped in soybean oil.
The sun was setting in the west on August 10. My hospital was overflowed and more noisy than usual somehow. It was just 25 before the moment the busy evening time would be over, one man came into my room shouting, “Is there family of Mr. and Mrs. Minamoto of Senda-machi?”
“Yes, I am their daughter, Sayuri.” I sat up in my futon and answered clearly. He walked and approached to me. I noticed that my face brightened up with my hope.
“I’m very sorry that we found Nozomi and Kumu Minamoto at Senda-machi and confirmed their deaths. I want you come to Hakushima to identify them tomorrow.”
When I heard it, my mind turned white. I couldn’t think about anything for a while and lost all my hope to live. Endlessly … endlessly, I couldn’t believe that my mother and grandmother were dead. I never ever thought about death itself, and misery struck my family in such a cruel occurrence. I tried to cry but couldn’t. I tried to ask that man again whether they were surely my mother and grandmother, but he was already gone. Then I asked myself, “How can I live without them?” Nobody answered this question. Now I had to find out how to live by myself.
I couldn’t sleep very much that night and woke up before dawn. My physical condition was still not good enough, but I put all my strength to go to an elementary school in Hakushima where all dead people were carried. I left Senda-machi about 8 p.m. Of course I still couldn’t believe that my mother and grandmother had already passed away.
The black smoke covered the sky over downtown, which had burst into flames. I crossed Kamiya-cho and went through a devastated downtown to come out to the streetcar road of Hakushima. The streetcar was burned and only its frame remained. There were piles of passengers burned to death still inside the streetcar.
Along the street, there were many dead soldiers. I met an old lady who was plodding along the street with her clothes and face burned. Here and there I saw many suffering people crying for help. It seemed heartless that I passed through among all those sufferers. I couldn’t go by without praying for lots of college students who had been burned to death in front of the factory in Hatchobori by a big water tank while holding out their hands for help.
Along Hakushima-Dori, numbers of dead bodies were lying about here and there. At that moment I doubted my eyes, but it was the real world.
I finally reached the school in Hakushima and tried to examine each dead body lying one after another in the narrow passage.
At that moment, I couldn’t utter a word in a terrible shock. I recognized the pattern of my mother’s work pants.
“Mom… Mom…!” I said running up to her, but she neither answered me nor called me by my name. She lay on the floor with her miserable face, which was half melted. I couldn’t believe she was my mother. No, I couldn’t believe it. I crouched down involuntarily beside her and touched her body. It was a cold, cold, very cold … blood-curdling sight.
I didn’t want to move from there, but I still had one tiny hope that my grandma was not the person that he told me. So I stood up and followed him. He guided me to the next room and pointed…
I caught my breath and burst out crying at the same time. My grandma was lying very mercilessly. Her body was completely squashed by the destroyed house. But I could know my grandma at a glance, because she got a big hollow on her neck when she suffered the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. She looked to have a gentle expression as usual. My most grievous tears were very dry, as if there was no place to for them to flow.
Even after I found them, I thought that they must have taken refuge some place and were safe. I cried to myself, “There must be some mistake!” I wished it was, but it was not. This was a great reality and a fear as well.
Two dead bodies were lying there like baked potatoes. Two of them in my family died, leaving me behind. I stood there alone, with nothing to say. It couldn’t be true that death and disaster had occurred. This was too terrible to believe or to shed tears about. I tried to remember a lot of memories that I had with them, but thought better of it. I managed to have a desire that my father, little sister and brother would be still living.
One week passed since the bomb was dropped. I began to suffer from diarrhea, and for many days I felt languid and enervated. I wished my mother cooked me nourishing meals. However in those days, food was just pumpkin and millet that was supplied and there were few nourishing foods. That would cause malnutrition, especially for little babies, children, and elderly people.
For a little while after the war, the same situation for food, hygiene, and fire continued. My unstable emotion was not an exception as well. Day by day, the number of the dead people was getting reduced.
©Copyright January 2001 by Keiko Kuroki