1. My dearest children

  Yukio and Tsukiko, you were in the first year and the second year of Takeya Elementary School at the time of the atomic bombing. It was during the morning of August 6. As I was uneasy, (I didn't know why), just after the air-raid warning was cleared, I, mother of you two, said, “Take a day off today.” Ignoring my advice, you two left for school, saying, “We will be home as soon as the air-raid warning is issued. But we only have one lesson a day these days. So the lesson is so precious.” You two looked back and waved to me, then never came back.

  Although 26 years have passed, I still can remember every detail of the day, one after another, as if it were yesterday. The moment I wondered if I saw the sun directly in my eyes, I got buried under the house which fell from the blast and coincided with a roar that sounded like distant thunder. I don't know how long it took me to get out to the ground after I struggled to break the fallen top roof with my fists. I had no idea whether it had been a long time or a short time. I first thought that a fireball dropped near my house, but it seemed to be only one of fireballs which had dropped after the explosion in the air. When I turned toward your school, I saw it enveloped in another fireball. How could I express my terror and despair at that moment? It was like my heart had stopped beating.

  Your father was exposed near home on his way back home from his work, Toyo Kogyo Co., after the night shift. He was injured and burned, but I left him to go to the school to search you. I got close to the school, making my way over the roofs of collapsed houses. There I only heard the auditorium burning and falling to the ground, and I saw the sparks of fire rising up furiously. Hearing my hair singed by flames rushing toward me, I decided to go back to your father, who needed to be taken to some safe place. Apologizing in my heart for walking out on you two, I got back to our collapsed house, which looked like a crushed matchbox. Then making your father hold my shoulder, almost carrying him on my back, I reached Hijiyama-bashi Bridge with him. There I witnessed a living hell on and under the bridge. I can never express or write about the tragic sight I saw there.

  You two could hardly make it even to this bridge. How hot everything was, how you suffered, and how quickly you wanted to be home. I am very sorry. I am still grieving, wishing I could have died instead

  I had looked after many school students as well as your father in the clothing depot in Asahi-machi until your father died there, while always worrying about you. Students died one after another, calling out for their parents. When they groaned less and stopped moaning, I found them dead. I think I was a little out of mind. Because imagining your agony and facing a number of people dying one after another should have made me unbearably sorrowful, I was just stunned and could shed no tears. Then seeing Mie Miyasaka, who was a fifth grader, alive, I was so encouraged and had hope for you two. I visited every air-raid shelter around Hijiyama Hill and every rescue station all over Hiroshima. I went everywhere, even from Ujina to Ninoshima Island by boat. I searched, so to speak, the entire Hiroshima area, from the north to the south, and from the east to the west, including Hatsukaichi City.

  During my search for you, I saw innumerable dead bodies left alone. Yet one of those assumed dead bodies, which was scorched and had maggots all over, talked to me. I gave him some water. Breaking a small twig into two pieces and using it like a pair of chopsticks, I picked and removed those maggots with it. Eventually I left him, who was still a stranger to me, with some comforting words. Although it was difficult to leave him there, I had to find you. I think by his condition he would have gone to the heaven after a short while.

  For several years after the bombing I visited some institutes accommodating war orphans, looking for you. My regret never ends, for if I had stopped you from going to school on that blazing day, I would not have lost you. I hear Mr. Sadahiro, who was assigned to Takeya National Elementary School a few days before that day and had taken charge of your classes, also died in the bombing. Poor Mr. Sadahiro. Born to a human, yet what misery he suffered. It was as though he was crushed like a bug.

  I stay up late in front of the family altar with a Buddhist rosary in hand, when I want to see you, Yukio and Tsukiko. When I almost fell asleep sitting there, I heard Tsukiko say, “Don't be so sad, mom.” I, left alone, am not very well or ever at ease. But many teachers and school children lost their lives in the bombing. Those enormous precious lives were victimized. Fits of unbearable lament sometimes break my prayers to Buddha.

  I sometimes come to Hiroshima City and walk on paved sidewalk. As I cannot help but thinking that many people died and their ashes are still lying untouched underneath, I say to myself, “I am sorry” to those hundreds of thousands victimized people for their death.

  They say that everything is darkest before dawn. It is sad to say, however, that at the cost of the enormous number of lives, including you, that long and dark war ended. Although it was a miserable ending, I wish, from the bottom of my heart, that your lives were not sacrificed in vain, but this peace endures long. All the survivors pray that you may repose in peace. I am not sure if the wording, “in peace” is appropriate. But I can not say anything but “rest in peace”

Written by Fumiko Ochiai (Kure City, Hiroshima Pref.)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Tsukiko Ochiai (a first grader at Takeya National Elementary School)
Yukio Ochiai (a second grader at Takeya National Elementary School)