Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Voice of the Hibakusha

While meeting last week to reflect on our group’s intent for the Journey of Repentance, we engaged in the topic of compassionate listening, and its role in reconciliation. A frequent message from the Hibakusha is to focus on hearing their stories and sharing them with others. Through this we can come to understand the true impact of the bombings. And only with a personal understanding of the devastation can we move toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In this light, I came across the Voice of Hibakusha, a program of the Hiroshima Peace Cultural Center, which shares individual accounts of the Hibakusha. Here I came across the story of Kinue Tomoyasu, who on the morning of August 6th had just said goodbye to her daughter who was on her way to work. “As I opened the window, there came the flash. It was so bright, a ten or hundred or thousand times brighter than a camera flash bulb. The flash was piercing my eyes and my mind went blank. The glass from the windows was shattered all over the floor. I was lying on the floor, too. When I came to, I was anxious to know what happened to my daughter, Yatchan.”

She walked outside to begin the search for her daughter – at one point believing a young girl with skin dandling from her naked body to be Yatchan. “…my mind was full, worrying about my daughter. I ran all the way to Hiroshima Station. Hiroshima Station was full of people. Some of them were dead, and many of them were lying on the ground, calling for their mothers and asking for water.”

That night, a parent of another woman working with Yatchan came to find Kinue and led her to her daughter, who was at the bank of the Ota River. “When I reached the river bank, I couldn't tell who was who. I kept wondering where my daughter was. But then, she cried for me, ``Mother!'' I recognized her voice. I found her in a horrible condition. Her face looked terrible. And she still appears in my dreams like that sometimes… I was all by myself, and I didn't know what to do. There were maggots in her wounds and a sticky yellowish pus, a white watery liquid coming out her wounds and a sticky yellowish liquid. I didn't know what was going on… The maggots were coming out all over. I couldn't wipe them off. I thought it would be too painful. I picked off some maggots, though. She asked me what I was doing and I told her, ``Oh, it's nothing.'' She nodded at my words. And nine hours later, she died.”

On August 15th Kinue held a funeral for her only daughter.

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