Memoir of the A-bombing;
Hiroshima As I Saw It
by Keiko Ogura
   Representative of the Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace (HIP)

August 6
I was eight years old, a second-year student at the National School. When the atomic bomb was dropped I was in Ushita Town, 2.4km north of the hypocenter. One of my older brothers, a fifth-year elementary student, had been evacuated, and my other older brother, a junior high school student, was involved in agricultural work north of Hiroshima Station as a mobilized student. My father had said "Something doesn't feel right. Don't go to school today", so I was all alone on the road on the north side of our house.
  Suddenly, I was engulfed in a dazzling flash of light, and the tremendous blast that followed slammed me to the ground. The straw roofs of the neighboring houses instantaneously burst into flames. When I went back to the house I found that everything inside was destroyed, the ceiling and roof tiles had been blown away, and the doors and window panes were shattered into hundreds of pieces and sticking out of the walls and pillars. But thankfully my parents and brothers and sisters who were inside the house only suffered minor injuries.
  Rain started to fall immediately after that - I do not know precisely when it started. I think it was shortly after the bomb was dropped. I went outside, and my clothes were dampened by the sticky, gray "black rain". That rain left many thick, gray-colored lines on the walls in the house.
People fleeing
My older brother finally came home, with burns on his face and hands. Hearing him say "Hiroshima is a sea of fire", I went outside to look at the city from the hill at the shrine nearby. It was then that I came across a line of people, their clothes in tatters, with burns, seriously injured, fleeing the city. These people had charred hair, faces and lips swollen and blackened with soot, and they were covered in blood. Some of the people had their skin peeling away and hanging down from their fingertips. Most of the people in this silent procession of ghost-like figures were soldiers or students; some of them ended up bent over and others lay down on the stone steps along the road leading up to the shrine. The whole area was filled with seriously injured people on the brink of death. I found out later that the reason that people were fleeing up there was that the area around the nearby shrine was being used as an emergency aid station. However there was no sign of anyone who looked like a doctor, just one soldier with a bucket, applying something like zinc oxide oil(*) to the injured with a brush. After that, seriously injured people died every day, and were carried to the park, which was being used as a temporary site for cremating the dead. It was in that park that my father and members from the civil defense unit cremated more than seven hundred corpses.
"Give me water"
As I was walking someone on the ground suddenly grabbed my ankle. From around my feet, a weak voice said "Give me water". A woman covered in soot and blood was clinging to me desperately. "Water, water", the voice of the dying woman continued to plead for water. I ran home, got some water from our well, and carried it to the dying people. Immediately after drinking the water, a number of those people suddenly slumped, and died right before my eyes. Shocked and trembling with fear, I regretted giving them water. I was so young, I did not know that it was said at the time that we were not supposed to give water to people with serious burns. I vowed never to tell anyone about what happened that day. My memory of that day remained with me as a nightmare even decades later.
  My half-collapsed home was crowded with injured relatives, friends and neighbors. My older sister was crying as she removed with tweezers shards of glass that were stuck in my uncle's back. The inside of the house was filled with a nauseating stench of blood, pus, mud, charred hair, and sewage. Flames had spread to the mountain behind our house, and Hiroshima continued to burn throughout the night.
Looking down over the destroyed city
On August 7, I looked down over the city of Hiroshima from the hill in front of the shrine. Burnt ruins spread as far as the eye could see, and I could pick out the remains of a number of buildings including the department store Fukuya and the former Chugoku Shimbun building. The sea that I could see beyond that felt so close that I could touch it. Smoke from cremations rose up from the park just nearby and every now and then the stench of burning corpses wafted over. From that day, I climbed those stone steps every day and continued to gaze over the city of Hiroshima.
Looking south from a building roof near Yamaguchi Town (currently the area of Kanayama Town, Ebisu Town and Nobori Town).
With nothing blocking the view, it was possible to see as far as Ninoshima Island (4,000m out to sea from Hiroshima City) floating on Hiroshima Bay.
Photographs by: US military
Communicating the wishes of the hibakusha to the world
Over the past thirty years, I have interpreted the testimonies of various atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) on the one hand, while on the other communicating my own experience in English to the people of the world. I do this because I do not want humankind to ever again experience the horror caused by nuclear weapons. I know that retribution and hatred mean nothing under that mushroom cloud, and that the people of the world share the same fate.

(*) zinc oxide oil: a white ointment used for minor burns.
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