35. Rest in Peace, Yoshiko!

  On the morning of August 5, my daughter Yoshiko cheerfully left home to go to work at school, saying,“I'am on night duty tonight.” I answered, “Bye. Take care,” not knowing that it was to be our last parting in this life. After seeing her out, I left home for Kurumegi in Hesaka, our place of evacuation, carrying as many of our belongings as possible. As I was going to stay at the house in Hesaka that night, I made a plan with my second daughter, who worked for Toyo Kogyo Co.,Ltd as a mobilized student, to join me in Hesaka that night. About 8 o'clock that night my husband who was to stay at our house in Higashiebisu-cho, came to Hesaka, saying to me, “Yoshiko took the trouble to come to see me from the school this evening. They say Hiroshima may be attacked tonight, but she doesn't know why. She worries about the family and advised me to go to Hesaka.”

  Early the next morning my husband went to our house in Higashiebisu-cho by bicycle. I left home much later than he. I came across a person heading to Hiroshima by horse cart. I got on it, too. Just as we came near Amazu in Ushita-machi, there came a brilliant flash. When I recovered my senses, both the horse and the passengers had disappeared. I found myself lying face down on the ground. The sky over Hiroshima wasn't clear as if it were covered with clouds and the fires broke out with terrible flames. Though I was much concerned about my husband and Yoshiko in Hiroshima, I went back to Hesaka, thinking it was not a good time to go to Hiroshima. About 11 a.m. my husband returned home in tattered clothes and injured. According to him, his bicycle had a flat tire near Hakushima, so he had it repaired. Then he was buried when the house collapsed but he managed to get out of it, and came back home slowly with great difficulty.

  The night sky over Hiroshima glowed deep red from the fires. Worrying about my daughter's safety, but with no way to help her, I couldn't sleep at all through the night. While I was falling into a doze, my daughter looking very intense pierced my heart. Suddenly I woke up with a start. Oh, it was a dream. I recall a vivid image of my daughter's terrible face without any words. It was too dark to tell the time. I sat there till daybreak. I told about my dream to my husband. Then he immediately went out searching for Yoshiko despite my dissuading him from going.

  I also searched for Yoshiko among the dead here and there. It was horrifying and eerie. I went to our house in Higashiebisu-cho as well as to Fukuromachi Elementary School to search for her. I was exhausted. When I ran into acquaintances among those looking for their family, we greeted each other, “You survived” or “How many of your family were killed?” and we did nothing but cry with each other. There were many casualties in Hesaka and at the ruins of the burnt school but I couldn't find Yoshiko there, either. I saw the neighbors gathering firewood, for burning corpses, I guessed. Temporary relief stations were set up.I don't remember clearly each of those I visited to seek for my daughter but I went on searching for her as far as a shelter at Ono in Saeki-gun. I begged a truck driver to give me a ride only this one time, but I asked him to get off the truck on the way because I couldn't endure sitting on the load any more.

  Finally I recognized Yoshiko didn't survive. I remembered our contract to rent a house in Hesaka only till the war ended. We bought a damaged house (where we live now) in Danbarahinode-cho and made emergency repairs. Finally we moved to the repaired house on November 26 in 1945.

  More than halfway through December, when the front door opened, I went to the entrance hall to meet someone unconcernedly. There I saw Yoshiko standing at the threshold as if she were looking into the house. I uttered loudly involuntarily, “Where have you been? We've been searching for you, Yoshichan!” At that moment I awoke. Oh, I had a dream. Yoshiko can't know the present house. She might have come to see us because she missed us, and I felt unbearably sad. Though 25 years have gone by since then, she has never appeared in my dreams. I wish I could see her even in my dream. I live daily imagining that she lives together with us. What strange dreams I dreamed in August and December! I still recall them clearly.

  We evacuated to Hesaka on March 19 in 1945. It was Yoshiko who suggested to vacuate to my aunt's house in Hesaka, after seeing one hundred enemy planes fly in formation over Hiroshima (later story) and also told her father to join us in Hesaka. We owe it to Yoshiko that three of us survive today. I feel pity for Yoshiko. If the A-bomb hadn't been dropped in Hiroshima, I wouldn't feel lonely like this now. It deprived us of tens of thousands of precious lives. Yoshiko, rest peacefully with your students, and other teachers! I'll often visit your grave.

Written by Hatsuko Kumagai (Danbarahinode-cho, Hiroshima)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Yoshiko Kumagai (a teacher at Fukuromachi National Elementary School)