NJ Peace Action

NJ Peace Action Hosts Hibakusha

New Jersey Peace Action recently co-hosted Hibakusha, Mrs. Yakuko Ohta at venues in Montclair, Cranford and Weehawken.

Not Letting the Tragedies of Nuclear Weapons Destroy Our Future Prospects for Peace

 Under the Wreckage of a House

Even now, if I saw intense lightning under a blue sky, I would cover my head and run to hide inside.  This is because such a light would remind me of the murderous light that I saw 65 years ago. 


It happened when I was in eighth grade, as I put my joyful student life behind and worked as a student laborer at a munitions factory.  The war was close to the end at that point.


It was such a beautiful summer day in the late morning, and I was walking with a schoolmate around a residential area full of empty houses since the residents had evacuated elsewhere.  We heard explosions come from above and afar and saw enemy aircraft shining in the sky.  The exploding sounds came closer and closer, and we realized they were B-29 bombers.  Then, we saw that the planes started to fly low, and we instantly knew that we had to run and hide.  We ran into an empty house.  It was such a small house that we ended up through the backdoor and outside as we were trying to find a room to hide in.  When I was about to go back in the house, I saw that strikingly intense light in the sky.


Some unknown amount of time later, I was pulled back to consciousness by my friend’s cries.  The house we ran into had completely collapsed to the ground, and my legs were buried under it.  As my memory was coming back, I realized how bad the situation was that I was in, and I was just trying to think how this had happened and if there was a way out.  I felt some heat around my feet, and my gut instinct told me that I was being steamed alive by the fire under my feet. 


I yelled for help with all my strength and tried to listen for any response to my cries, but all I could hear was silence, not even a footstep, and I could also hear the sound of popping fire.  I panicked, terribly anxious to get out of that horrible place. 


The Savior

I strained my voice as I yelled, trying to be heard by my mother who was far away from there.  I screamed, “I am still young!  I don’t want to die!  Help!”   Then, I heard some footsteps, and I screamed for help as much as I could, over and over.  The footsteps stopped and about a half an hour later, and a stranger dragged me out of the wreckage.  The person’s face was bleeding profusely, and his nose was missing.  It was impossible to tell what his face had been like before.  He collapsed to the ground after carrying me out and told me to run.  It sounded like an elderly man’s voice.





Days of Smelling Burned Human Bodies

What I saw after I got out of the wreckage was nothing like how things were before.  The city was completely destroyed, and I just kept running.  My pants were torn, hanging, and my sneakers were gone.  My friend and I were instinctively heading to the mountains. There were waves of people running too as we got to the foot of the mountain.  At our feet there were so many dead bodies and an uncountable number of people on the ground who were gravely injured and dying.  Being on that mountain was like being in Hell.


There were people eating pumpkins and sweet potatoes that had been cooked instantly by the intense heat from the bombing, and I just ran from this scary place by jumping over so many dead bodies.  I heard the survivors talking about “the new bomb” that had caused the destruction. I did not understand what that meant; I just wanted to go back to my mother.  Without eating or drinking, I returned to the refuge town of Isahaya.  Every day, dead bodies were transferred in piles by freight cars to my home station, which was about an hour away from there.  The bodies were taken to the river bank and burned.  Every day, the smell of the burning bodies drifted up from the riverside.


My Thoughts

It took about a month for me to really realize that I had survived.  Nevertheless, the war continued like an everlasting nightmare after that.  The poison of that horrifying nuclear bomb was in my body, always threatening my life. 

The bomb did not just threaten the life I almost lost but also the lives of my children.  My oldest son kept bleeding from his nose until late at night during his primary-school years, and I had so many worries about his health.  My daughter graduated from a high school for the blind in Toyama and lives in a facility for the people with vision disabilities.  My youngest son graduated from high school and works for a company.  All my children were born prematurely at seven months, but they all survived to become adults. 


I’ve suffered for 65 years from the nuclear bombing, and I do not wish this experience upon anybody.  From time to time, I talk about my bombing experience to young people. I will never lose hope for a world of peace to come in the future.  The dreadful bombing experience that I had should never be repeated. Now, I appeal to you and to the world that we may all walk together along the road to peace.