Reporter’s View: We must convey the messages of the A-bomb survivors

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

My second daughter, who is three and a half, often wants me to pick her up or give her a piggyback ride. She also frequently throws a fit. Although she tires me out, when I see her innocent smile and watch her sleeping peacefully, I’m reminded of how precious she is to me. Then I think of the many small children who perished in the atomic bombing, children who were no different from my daughter.

I returned to work at the Hiroshima Peace Media Center in March after an absence of seven years and I again have the opportunity to hear a range of accounts of the atomic bombing from A-bomb survivors. My heart aches, especially, at the stories of small children, who I imagine were just like my daughters before they lost their lives in the A-bomb attack.

I received an unexpected call from Chie Matsuda, 88, an A-bomb survivor who lives in Minami Ward, Hiroshima. At the time of the atomic bombing, Ms. Matsuda was working at Ujina station on the Ujina train line, which was the transportation base for the army. “If I die without telling others about the mother and baby I came across, they won’t rest in peace,” Ms. Matsuda said in a choked voice.

After the blast, she was helping to put the injured on freight cars when she saw a woman who was badly wounded and had a baby on her back. The baby’s scalp, she said, “was peeled like an onion and both arms were only bones.” Each summer the painful memory returned to her, and she suffered many sleepless nights, but she kept this memory to herself for a long time. Now, however, she feels strongly that the time has come for her to share her A-bomb experience.

After more than 70 years since this horrific tragedy, survivors like Ms. Matsuda are starting to open up about their experiences, one after another. Over the past three years, the number of A-bomb survivors seeking to share their accounts has surged. This year, 47 people have been added to a list of those willing to tell their story. This may be because, as they grow older, the survivors feel a stronger sense of urgency that the memory of the atomic bombing is in danger of fading if they don’t speak out now.

“When I see small children on the street, I always talk to them in my mind and silently wish for their happiness with their mother,” Ms. Matsuda said. As I reporter, I now feel a deeper sense of responsibility to convey the messages of the A-bomb survivors.

(Originally published on May 19, 2017)