"I want to see the abolition of these foul weapons accomplished in my lifetime."

By Toyomi Hashimoto

Before I was exposed to the atomic bomb, I lived in Nagasaki with my husband, a tailor, and our three-year-old son. We owned our house and were in excellent health. My husband volunteered at the neighborhood association. My neighbors said I was lucky.

I was pregnant when the bomb was dropped on August 9, 1945. I was at home with my son, just 1.2 kilometers from the epicenter. Our house collapsed instantly on top of us. A sea of flames -- 4,000 degrees C -- leaped toward the house. I had to rip my belly on a nail to pull myself out of the house and I narrowly escaped the flames. I found my son unconscious, his clothes covered in blood, and my husband and I pulled out the shards of broken glass piercing his body. Though he survived, he was blinded in one eye and my unborn child suffered prenatal exposure to the radioactivity.

What I saw that day was a living hell that words cannot describe. Over 60 years later I can still recall it so vividly. The faces of the corpses were burned, disfigured and unidentifiable.

We lost the house, my husband was bedridden and our family plunged into abject poverty. I gave birth to four more sons and two of them developed brain tumors, one dying at just 18 months. My husband died 13 years after his exposure to the atomic bomb. I was also ill, but I had to work to raise my young children alone. All my income went on medical care, and we lived in the hell of illness and unspeakable poverty.

The atomic bomb changed our lives 180 degrees. The injuries would afflict me for the rest of my life. I had broken glass all over my body. The pieces stuck near my ear gave me so much pain that I couldn’t sleep well at night for 38 years until finally they were removed. I suffered numerous illnesses, and am now battling liver cancer.

I hated America immensely for more than ten years for having put my family through all this misery. I would feel a surge of intense rage just on hearing the mere word "America." But then I encountered Buddhism, and this changed the way I looked at my experience as a hibakusha. I resolved to stop cursing it as my fate and instead transform it into a lifelong mission for peace, and began to visit schools, speaking out about what I went through.

I was asked to go to the U.S. in 1982 and represent atomic bomb survivors at the UN General Assembly devoted to disarmament on behalf of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist association.

There I met with American scientists, some of whom had worked on the Manhattan Project. MIT professor Bernard Feld was one of them. He asked me, "Do you hold a grudge against the U.S.?" and the atmosphere became tense.

"At first I did," I replied. "I held a deep grudge for being forced to live a life of hell. A single atomic bomb deprived my family and so many people of happiness.

"Now, however, what I really want is that no one, including U.S. citizens, should have to go through what I experienced." I told them I am a Buddhist and I have learned that what we must fight against is the inner darkness in the lives of people who would inflict such suffering.

Mr. Obama has now called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the first U.S. president to do so, and will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It gives me great hope to finally see efforts for nuclear abolition beginning to move forward. If I were to meet Mr. Obama in person, I would urge him, "Please rid the world of nuclear weapons. Please don’t ever let anyone go through what we did. I will be watching you with high hopes!"

I heard that Mr. Obama will not come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his visit to Japan. I want the leaders of all governments to visit our two cities and learn about the true horrors of the atomic bomb directly from the survivors, the hibakusha. We are growing older and many of us die each year, so I want them to visit here as soon as possible.

I want to see the abolition of these foul weapons accomplished in my lifetime. That is what I have lived for. I am 85 years old, but I will speak out for peace as long as I live. I want young people to remember what we went through and what peace means to us. This is my only wish.

Supported by Soka Gakkai International as part of the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition campaign. http://www.peoplesdecade.org

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