“The basis for peace is for people to understand the pain of others.”
An atomic bomb victim, Mr. Katsuji Yoshida, left this message for us before he passed away in 2010. He was a member of my family temple, Kougenji and also a good friend of my father. He was thirteen years old when the A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945. He was badly burned because he was close to ground zero. Later, he made a big effort to tell his experience to younger generations. He also came to the U.S.A. to convey his experience and wish for peace. I truly appreciate his words, which are related to the Buddha’s great compassion. I would like to introduce his article written in 2005 and think about “Peace” with you. – Rev. Kusunoki
<Two students died in front of me>
We went back to the commercial high school where we took refuge before. The pain that I suffered when the glaring sunlight hit my burned flesh was like hell on earth. After sunset, my pain became better. However, my face started swelling. One of my friends cried and said that he wanted to go home. I told him that it was better to wait for someone to come to rescue us. But, he didn’t listen to me. He left there and crossed over a hill even though his right eye was blind. Luckily he got back to his home. He also visited my family and told them.
“Yoshida got burnt but he is still alive. Please go to save him.”
Around that time, my friends and I met two students who were our schoolmates. One of them had injured his leg and another one’s eyeballs hung down to his mouth. We could see his naked vein was beating. The guy whose eyes fell out carried the guy who injured his leg on his back. When they came to close to us, they said, “Ahhhh, I feel relived!” and then died there. This picture is still imprinted on my memory even though sixty years have passed.
<I eventually became blind. I didn’t drink water>
I couldn’t see anything because my face was so swollen. I tried to open my eyelids but I couldn’t do it. I turned my face to the direction where I could hear somebody’s footsteps. I asked people if the Suwa shrine area where I lived was OK. I asked the same question over and over again, but all the replies were same that Nagasaki city was totally destroyed. It became night and dark. We encouraged each other saying, “GANBARO, GANBARO (Keep going! Do not give up.)”
I felt cold and was shivering even though it was summer time. It might be because I didn’t have skin on my body. I really wanted to drink water. My friend told me,
“Yoshida, please give me some water. I won’t regret drinking water even if I die.” We asked people who were walking nearby to give us some water but they just passed by us. Nobody stopped for us. If I were them, I would have done the same thing.
At school morning assembly, an officer had used to say, “When you get injured, you will want to drink water, but you must not drink water.” We heard that over and over again. In those days, we had to follow what they said without having any questions. I may have survived because I did what they had taught me.
It was a long night but finally morning dawned. A woman told us that a rescue team had come from Isahaya city. She took us to the commercial high school’s grounds where the rescue team was. I was determined not to die until I got home. The rescue staff put me on a wooden door board and applied ointment using what little medicine they had.
It was very hot during the daytime. It felt like my burned body was on a hot plate. I thought that I would suffer forever and eventually die. My mother told me afterward that a thousand of people were laid down on the grounds and suffering from burns, groaning with pain, crying, and calling out for their mother, father and family.
My parents first went to epicenter of the explosion to look for me and then came to the school grounds. It was not easy to find me because the grounds were filled with injured people who were wrapped with bandages. They called “Katsuji, Katsuji” and looked at each one of the injured people. They finally found me but at first, they could not recognize me because my face and body looked totally different. My parents took me home. On the way home, it is said that my parents walked through the burned-out city and I deliriously kept asking my parents to give me some water. There were many burned people who were almost dead on the roadside. They could move their mouth but couldn’t make any sound. They looked at me with a reproachful look. My parents saw them but just passed by these people.
(To be continued)