28. Persevering Aah-chan

  At 8:15, on August 6, 1945, the A-bombing, never to be forgotten in human history, occurred. It robbed us of three family members at one time: Aah-chan, you were 9 years old and Naoko was 3. Your grandmother, who was missing, was eventually declared dead. It's been 26 years since then, yet even now we can hardly describe such a wretched situation at that time. Only those who witnessed that can understand, or I'd say, would know what it was like.

  I have lots of memories about you, Aah-chan. Born in Osaka, you went to Kodai Kindergarten for two years without missing a single day even when you had measles, although you had to be brought home by the janitor. I was horrified when you turned left instead of right after receiving a prize for regular attendance. You were persevering about everything, even if scolded. One time you, alone, watched the baggage for two hours for your father at Osaka Station during air raids.

  In April 1945, your brother, Ken, a fourth grader at Otemachi National Elementary School, was evacuated to Yamanouchi Kitamura National Elementary School in Shobara. Children in the second grade and younger, such as you, were left with their parents. Few classes were being held, so we took you along with us to Osaka for two weeks as your father had some business affairs there to wind up. We came back to Hiroshima on the 4th of August and went to your grandma's in Yano, Aki-gun on the 5th. Making it a day-trip, we returned to Hiroshima late that afternoon.

  Early the morning of the 6 th, I took a 7:45 train (Geibi-line) for Shiwaguchi since we had earlier evacuated some items at our relative's there. The gigantic air raid occurred while I was away to take those little items back home, leaving you and Naoko with your grandparents. I had never let Naoko be away from me before--- only, only that day. On my way back at Yaguchi Station, I encountered a disaster train for the first time. I asked those injured and burned the situation, what it was like. “A yellow ray of light came, then the next moment I found myself burned. We were three of us and the one in the middle died”, somebody said. Obviously it was very different from the incendiary bombs we had experienced in Osaka, so I was confused and wondered what had happened.

  When I finally reached the burned ruins, it was too late to be able to recognize faces. I spent that night with some 20 people at a lot by the east-end of the present Peace Bridge. “Water, water...” “I'm cold, cold...”, voices were heard throughout the night. When people became quiet, they were dead.

  The following morning I received information about my family from my neighbor evacuee. My mother was at Chugoku Paint Co. and she asked the neighbor to pass on her words to me; “The little girl died, so put up her name board. The older child wasn't around me when I fled, so I'm afraid he is dead in the neighborhood. Search for him around there.” Then I asked, “What about my mother?” She said, “Your mother was so badly burned that I thought the night dew would do her harm. I got soldiers to come and take her to a rescue station. So, why don't you look for her at Japan Red Cross Hospital or in the Ujina area?”

  My father and I wasted no time. We went to Yoshijima to take the 3-year-old Naoko's body. Some flowers and a rice ball in a small boat were offered for her, whose face and limbs were all white with ointment. We cremated the body ourselves that evening, and I never before experienced anything this difficult.

  Aah-chan, we first searched and searched for you in the neighborhood, then went from one rescue station to another more than ten days, wondering if you wandered around in the fires.

  Half a year later I got a report from a worker who was leveling the earth in the neighborhood. The moment I saw human remains under a pile as thick as eight tatami-mats, I could recognize that it was you, and my hands were automatically moving to gather your bones and fragments of flesh. Finding something stuck to a large fragment, I shook it. It was part of the clothes you wore that morning, the front part of your sleeveless shirt and pants. Aah-chan, I had to admit, once and for all, that you were no longer in this world. I felt exhausted and shattered, but I could think of it another way, too. If you died in an instant, then you.....,my thoughts swayed back and forth painfully.

  What kind of life would you be living if you, persevering with everything, were alive? There are times when your father and I say that your younger brother and sister who were born after the war are the rebirth of you.

  I hope you entered Nirvana together with Naoko and your grandmother, of whom we still don't know where she died. May this kind of tragedy never be repeated! I'm praying for the repose of all the A-bomb victims and for world peace.

Written by Masako Ishiburo (3-7-8, Otemachi)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Katsumi Ishiburo (a second grader at Otemachi National Elementary School)