26. Unforgettable Tsune-chan

  “Tsune-chan”, your name is unforgettable for me, your mother. I had been waiting for many years, hoping to see you back home with the greeting of “Mom.” But you never came back, as I had feared.

  You left cheerfully for your school, Kanzaki National Elementary School, on the hot morning of August 6th, 1945. And you came back soon, saying, “I forgot my air-raid hood.” Neither I nor anyone else would have known it was the last time for us to be together.

  The war had been cruel to you, an eight-year old little boy in the second grade of an elementary school. Your whole life those days, with such slogans as “Hang on until we win,” and “Do without until we win”, was indeed too much for you. Your father had gone to the battlefield as a drafted soldier, and the four of us, your grandfather, your sister Ritsuko, you and me, had endured the war-time austerities. Even rice, which we wanted to eat before anything else, was always in short supply, and it is needless to say that we never dreamed of sweets.

  Every night that an air-raid alert sounded, I woke you up and we, the entire family, walked together with our neighbors from Funairinaka-machi to Koi for evacuation. We had to make that evacuation trip almost every night. One night, I remember that you said, “I would rather stay home sleeping, even though I got killed.” It was really a pity for children in wartime to have had such tough lives that today's children now can never understand.

  I hate wars. I lost you, my dear innocent child to the war. The entire family celebrated your birth because you were my firstborn child, and moreover, you were a boy. February 4, 1938 was your birth date.

  Your father joined the Second West Unit after he got a draft card on November 4, 1941, and he departed Hiroshima from the Ujina Port on November 14, leaving no information about where he would be taken. Then, the Greater East Asia War broke out on December 8, and lasted a long long time. Life for you, a little child, became austere, since everything, such as food, was limited. I also lived a desperate life supporting your grandfather, Ritsuko and you. I was saying to myself, “Hang on until we win.” However, the war ended in defeat for Japan. The world's first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and numerous innocent people agonized, writhed and died.

  That day, that horrible atomic bomb was dropped just after you left second time for school with your air-raid hood. At that time, Ritsuko, my next-door wife with her baby and I were talking on the roadside. After I felt a bright flash, I rushed into the house. In a moment, the house collapsed. I was buried under the debris of the house and couldn't find a way to get out. Fortunately, my next-door wife's head was not buried by the debris. She asked passers-by for help, who were taking refuge, for help, and some kind person rescued us. I found Ritsuko luckily with no injuries, crying on the street.

  Just when I was rescued, your grandmother (my mother), who was living near us, was also rescued, injured and covered with blood. I fled taking her and Ritsuko, leaving your grandfather inside the house. I had no choice. Your poor grandfather died, buried under the collapsed house.

  When I turned to the street, there were many pitiful people. It was a living hell. What I saw was so cruel that I think anyone other than the A-bombed can't imagine.

  While we were fleeing to Eba, a boy from our neighborhood told me, “Mrs. Murakami, Tsune-chan died, buried under the school building, which collapsed when the bomb was dropped.” Although I wanted to run straight to your school to confirm what he had said, I kept from crying and kept fleeing. I couldn't leave your grandmother because she was badly injured. After we got to an evacuation site at a temple in Funairikawaguchi-cho, I frantically hurried walking bare feet on the scorched road to your school, Kanzaki National Elementary School. However, it was too late. The school was completely burned down.

  I am sorry, Tsune-chan. Please forgive me for leaving you. My right leg had got burned. The burn hurt me so badly that night that I couldn't walk or move any more. I think I was too tense to feel the pain from the burn in the daytime.

  Fortunately, I have recovered, managing to live until I could see the day of August 6, 1971. But I feel old and frail. I suppose it is because I was exposed to the A-bomb.

  I unexpectedly found the news about the erection of the Monument to the A-bombed Teachers and Students of National Elementary Schools in the newspaper this year. I didn't lose any time in requesting that you be listed in the register of the dead.

  Tsune-chan, after 26 years, you now joined together with your teachers and friends. Please rest in peace.

  I hate wars. Please stop waging war that takes precious lives instantly. I want the whole world to be peaceful.

  My dear, dear Tsune-chan, your body couldn't be found. Years can't erase your name from my heart.

Written by Etsuko Murakami (Ebasakae-machi, Hiroshima)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Tsuneo Murakami (a second grader at Kanzaki National Elementary School)