What I Want to Say Now
by Akiko Takakura

Three colors express for me the day the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima: black, red, and brown. It was black when the explosion cut off sunlight and plunged the world into darkness. Red was the color of blood pouring out of all the broken and cut peo-pie. Red was also the color of the flames that burned everything in the city. Brown was the color of the burnt, peeling skin exposed to heat rays said to be between 3,000 and 4,000 degrees centigrade.

I was 19 years old, an employee of the Hiroshima Bank, located at No.17 Kamiya-cho. That day dawned crystal clear, and the midsummer sun was soon beating down on the Earth. After a yellow air-raid warning, the all-clear sounded at 7:31. I arrived at work at 8:10. I was cleaning the desks with my friend as usual when a white light flashed outside. I lost consciousness, so I don't know what happened after that. I do know that I was blown to the floor by the blast. I have no idea how much time passed before the sound of my friend crying "Mother! Mother!" brought me back to consciousness. Astonished, I thought, "We were hit. The bank was bombed." I could see nothing in the pitch black. The bank staff had often instructed us, "If there's an air attack, get to the military drill ground* right away." The drill ground was about 200 meters from the bank. Realizing that we needed to escape immediately, I called to my friend in the darkness, "Let's get out of here!" Though she had been working right next to me, her pained voice now came from some distance away. "I can't get up. Go ahead and go." When the blast had blown her to the floor, it had broken something in her spine. At that time I thought she was just feeling sick, so in the scant light that was returning I searched around my feet. I caught water spouting from a broken water pipe in a fragment of an iron helmet. I carried it to her and poured it on her head. After I had done this five or six times, I was surprised when she was able to get up. We held hands tightly and said, "Let's run together." Then we left the building. Outside we found a sea of flames, even behind the bank. The fires sprang up quickly here because Hiroshima Bank was only 260 meters from the hypocenter. "What shall we do?" Thinking together to save our lives, we decided to go to the Sumitomo Bank next door because it had a high firewall. In desperation, we climbed the wall and jumped down on the other side in the Sumitomo Bank.

We were amazed by what we found in that bank. Smashed desks and chairs were tossed in heaps. Employees lay covered in blood where they had evidently been killed instantly. We could only gasp. Soon flames began to spread inside the building as well. We went out to the main streetcar street and crouched in front of a fire cistern. The whole city was engulfed in flames. I cannot express the fear and disorientation we felt as we tried to decide what to do, assailed by the intense heat and smoke.
Every two or three minutes a whirling fireball would hurtle toward us. "Ooh! Help!" Five or six of us injured but still alive cried out in grief, anger, and fear when burning winds blew toward us. No scene of my life is more painful to remember. Later, huge black raindrops began to fall. Struggling to breathe among the hot flames, we craned our necks and opened our mouths, moving our heads back and forth to catch the black drops and soothe our parched throats. When the fire died down a bit, we walked toward the drill ground.

The streets were piled with the reddish-brown corpses of those who were killed instantly as they walked along. It was painful to walk by them. I tried to walk steadily, but my legs trembled, maybe because of shock. Our progress was slowed by continually stopping to avoid stepping on bodies. I saw one corpse with burning fingers. Her hand was raised and her fingers were on fire, blue flames burning them down to stumps. A light charcoal-colored liquid was oozing onto the ground. When I think of those hands cradling beloved children and turning the pages of books, even now my heart fills with a deep sadness.


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