Sad Reunion

Masaki Morimoto

AT NINE IN THE MORNING on that hot, humid day, some friends and I went for a swim in a nearby irrigation pond. There were ten of us, all about the same age. We splashed around in the cool water until we became tired and hungry and decided to go home. By twos and threes, we started for the bank. Then one of the group shouted, "Hey, come and look! They're dropping a parachute bomb." All of us hurried out of curiosity to see what a parachute bomb was. Then we spotted something dangling from three clustered parachutes hovering over Nagasaki Shipyard but heading our way.

Suddenly a white flash struck, and I fell. The last thing I remember before losing consciousness was the feeling of the grass on the bank pressing against my forehead.

I had been lucky. I was blown off my feet, down the bank, and into the water. The parts of my body that were in the pond were neither seriously injured nor burned. I would have died like the others, if I had been exposed to as much radiation as they.

Still I was not unhurt. The front of my body was so burned that when I touched my chest the skin adhered to my palm and pulled away. Climbing to the bank, I saw that my friends were all alive, though they had been burned. Their hair was frizzled, and they no longer had eyebrows. The tattered clothes of one badly burned boy stuck fast to his inflamed skin. In less than a week, seven of the ten had already died of radiation sickness.

Hurrying home, I found our house and all the other buildings in the neighborhood blown to bits. Everyone who could walk or crawl was fleeing to a large air-raid shelter near our house. I joined the group, overtaking several seriously burned people who were forced to go on all fours. Inside the shelter, I lay down and watched as other victims rapidly filled the space. They were all in pitiable condition. The eyeballs had been blown out of the sockets of one man's head. Before long, maggots hatched there and wriggled in the gaping holes. The burns on my own body festered and became infested with maggots. They were soon joined by some of the many swarms of flies prevalent that summer. Suppuration gradually spread to other parts of my body. More pus for the increasing numbers of maggots and flies. Hell is the only word to describe what we suffered. But soon, I had undergone so much that I became apathetic. The sight of the disfigured bodies of my friends left me unmoved.

Though I had not died in the bombing, I felt certain that in my wretched state, the end was not far away. For a month, I hovered between life and death. And then, one day my father managed to obtain a certain herbal medicine, which worked amazing improvements in my condition.

Our school reopened in borrowed quarters in October, 1945; and I was well enough to attend. Only forty of the former nearly two thousand pupils appeared the first day. In the spring of 1946, fourteen members of our class finished the sixth grade and entered middle school.

Two of my elder sisters were injured in the bombing. The oldest, who had carried me on her back to the hospital for treatment while I was still in grave condition, sustained severe burns but seemed to be doing well until the summer of 1946, when she died of radiation sickness. My other older sister, who had suffered no serious external injuries, died in 1951, of leukemia.

In 1968, we held a reunion of the group that had graduated from the sixth grade in 1946. Only nine of us had survived. Five had died, one after another, from various symptoms of the atomic disease. The American National Broadcasting Company television division filmed the reunion, which was later shown over a national network.

The meeting was a sad one. We had lost most of our childhood friends, but we still treasure the ones who remain, for we must try to encourage each other to go on.

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