34. My Grandson Also Passed Away, Leaving Me Alone

  It was Aug. 6, 1945. After the air raid alert was canceled, there was no cloud in the sky. It was around 8 o'clock. My grandson, Tadashi, got dressed and put on his school bag on his back with a red wooden bowl on the side. He said, “I'm leaving now”, loudly as usual, and just when he was getting out of the doorway, he noticed a pair of new grass sandals made in Kumamoto which were sent from his great grandmother (my mother). He said, “Are you still keeping these here?”, and left home cheerfully. Ms. Ishii had promised to serve sweet red bean soup to children at Seibi School on that day, therefore Tadashi, who had a sweet tooth, was really looking forward to eating the sweet soup using the red bowl.

  Then I went out of the gate to take the garbage that I had gathered in the garden out to the dustbin. At that moment, I saw a flash and heard a furious, roaring sound with a great explosion. No sooner had I dashed back into the open doorway than the black wooden fence fell. The windowpanes were shattered by the blast and the wall by the staircase came down with a thud.

  When I came to, I was anxious about Tadashi. Since my husband (Tadashi's grandfather) had an injury on his forehead, I decided to go instead to find Tadashi and bring him home. I put my husband's sash around my waist, just in case Tadashi was injured and I would have to carry him on my back. I went to the tramcar street (near the national tobacco company), where a military policeman stopped me and asked where I was going. Even though I told him about my situation, he didn't let me go further, saying, “It is too dangerous for a woman to go through this hazardous road. The school must have protected him, so go home and wait for information from the school.” In the meantime, several trucks loaded with bloody men and women and with worn out people were passing one after another toward Ujina.

  I went home feeling helpless. But I was so worried that I could not stay there and left home again. This time I took the east street by the national tobacco company and went across the Hijiyama bridge to get to the tramcar street. Most electric poles were still connected to electric lines, but they had fallen on the streets smoking and smoldering. There was a horse-drawn cart along the roadside, but the horse was dead.

  Around the Shirakami Shrine, a streetcar had fallen on its side. I also encountered many wounded people on the way. One person was by a car and another person fallen in the ditch. Some people were sitting cross-legged and I couldn't tell if they were men or women because of their bald heads. They were crying hoarsely, “Water, water!” or “Mother, mother!” That scene was a terrifying hell like I had never seen before. It was too frightening to walk alone through this area, so I asked a passing-by soldier to take me to Seibi School.

  When I got to Seibi School east of the West Drill Ground, I found the flattened school building with smoke rising. I was worried if Tadashi was trapped under the collapsed building, or if he was able to flee from this destruction. I saw a boy as old as Tadashi, lying in the rubble whose lifeless body had been terribly disfigured. However, I recognized that this body was not Tadashi, because the body's waist belt was different from Tadashi's. I just prayed for this dead boy's soul with my hands together.

  There, a soldier came out of the Kaikosha and asked, “Who are you looking for?” I told him, “I am looking for my grandson, Tadashi”. He said, “I had played tag with him at this school playground daily until yesterday, but I have been to the mountain to make charcoal since last evening and came back here today.” He helped me look for Tadashi together in vain until the sun started to set. The soldier kindly said to me, “I will let you know if I find something about him. You'd better go home now.” Even though I didn't want to go home without finding any clue about Tadashi, I reluctantly headed back home broken-hearted.

  In the evening we were instructed to leave home and evacuate just in case of an air raid at night. How could we leave home? What if he were to come home looking for us? As it got late, we evacuated to a nearby field for a while, having little hope for Tadashi's return on that night. However, we did go back home around midnight and waited for him the rest of the night. The next morning, on the 7th, about 10 o'clock, we heard the neighbors talking loudly. They said, “The Isobe's boy has come home.” We got out of the house barefoot in a hurry. There he was! He was standing in the uniform and hat without school bag or anything else, and holding two bags of dry bread to his chest which were given to him by a soldier. I held him in my arms, washed his feet, and laid him down on the bed.

  He looked fine and did not get injured except for a scratch on his forehead which he got when the streetcar stopped suddenly. I felt relief, because I had no idea about A-bombs and the damage to the body. I called my family doctor. He gave him treatment and instructed me how to take care of him, and to apply Mercurochrome to the scratch on his forehead. After a while Tadashi calmed down and we relaxed a bit. Since I was occupied by household routines, my husband took care of our grandson all day long. As Tadashi was fond of reading books, my husband read him various books aloud from the collection at our home. He was a good listener. Every night as soon as I could I slept by Tadashi. Soon, the scratch on his forehead healed. However, he did not have an appetite and gradually got weaker. Nevertheless, he was relaxed and told us various stories.

  He was exposed to the A-bomb in the streetcar near the Shirakami Shrine. When the streetcar stopped suddenly, he followed other passengers. They ran away to the grass field behind the Sentei and came to rest there. In the evening, he said, “I am going home”. A man, probably from Hakushima area, stopped him and said, “Even for grown-up men, it's hard to go home in this chaos, let alone a young boy like you. You can't go home to Minami-machi by yourself. You should stay here overnight.” He gave him rationed rice balls and corn. Tadashi spent one night there and walked back home along the streetcar line.

  For all these many years that have gone by since this tragedy happened, I have not been able to find this kind man. I don't even know his name, or if he is alive. If he is still alive, I'd like to let him know how grateful I am for the tender care he gave to my grandson.

  Tadashi's condition had not changed for days. We had received notification that water supply service would resume at 3 o'clock in the morning on the 13th. Tadashi remembered that. When the clock struck 3 o'clock, he said, “Grandma, it's 3 o'clock. Why don't you check to see if water is available from the water pipe?” He had been clearly conscious until then, but one hour later he said quickly, “Grandma, it looks like the lid of the iron pot on the straw charcoal bag in the storage shed is falling, you'd better lift it up.” I noticed that his consciousness was becoming dim, and I was bracing myself for his death. About 5 o'clock in the morning my husband said to him, “Tadashi, would you like some water?” He said, “No thank you, for now.” Before long he took his last breath and he looked as if he were asleep.

  We put a new white clothe (prepared for a special occasion) on his body, and placed a small rosary, two books about submarines and three other books of his favorite in the coffin. We also put Seibi's school hat, and my husband and I with some neighbors carried the coffin to the crematory at the Senbai Kousha (the National Tobacco Company). His body was treated carefully by the soldiers there, and the next day, on the 15th, we took his bones back home. At home we listened to the Emperor's Address in the radio announcing the end of the war (Gyokuon Housou). It was a sad and miserable day for me and I shed a lot of tears. During the war, Tadashi's father died in battle, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, as the captain of a submarine. After giving birth to her second child, Tadashi's mother became ill and died. That's why my husband and I had raised and cherished him as the important heir of our family. We had never thought that he would die this young at the age of 8 years and 9 months. I don't want to brag about my grandson Tadashi, but I am proud that he was fond of reading. He read not only children's books but also more substantial books (especially about history), and he told us his impression about the books. He had kept his diary until the 5th, the day before the A-bombing.

  Now, my husband is dead. As the only survivor of my family, I continue to pray for them. I wish I could have contributed more to society. Now my life is calm, like one of the surface of pond.

Written by Masa Isobe (Nishikasumi-cho, Hiroshima-shi)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Tadashi Isobe (a third grader at Seibi School)

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