Testimonies

Never Giving Up

By Sueko Takada

I was six years old. On my way to the air-raid shelter I tripped and fell in the street and started crying. It was at that moment that the atomic bomb was dropped. It was incredibly bright. A thunderous sound reverberated in my chest, and in an instant the entire city was a sea of fire. I was just a child and I was trembling with fear.

My mother's sister lived 3 kilometers away near the hypocenter in Nagasaki, and the next morning my mother went to search for her. Huge amounts of radioactivity remained for several days within one kilometer of the hypocenter, but my mother knew nothing of this. Holding me by the hand, she headed straight there.

What I saw there was unbearable to look at. In the Urakami River, you could see the swollen carcasses of numerous horses, cows and people. Dead bodies were lying in the street, and I had to avoid stepping on them as I walked. Survivors' flesh dangled from their bodies, and their faces were black with soot. They tried to grab me, saying, "Please give me water. Water please. Please help me." Terrified, I clung to my mother. We finally found my aunt buried under her collapsed house. We pulled her out and carried her to a shelter, but she died almost immediately.

A couple of weeks later, I began to feel very weak and suffer from persistent diarrhea. I also started bleeding from my gums. At night, while I slept, my mouth would fill with blood. The healthy children in the neighborhood would throw stones at me, fearing that they might catch my disease. In sixth grade, I suffered from peritonitis and a high fever that continued for about two months, giving me terrible nightmares of scenes from the days after the A-bombing.

Next I was diagnosed as having malignant lymphomas. I had surgery, but the tumors continued to appear twice a year, every year. I would spend only one or two months at home because I spent the rest of the time in the hospital. There I met other hibakusha. At night, I would often hear someone groaning, then screaming out in pain. Their voice would gradually grow fainter until around 4 am when they finally passed away.

I was terrified that I might be the next one to go. The fear of death was so overwhelming that I hated nighttime. Several times I went up to the rooftop of the hospital thinking of suicide, but then I would remember all my parents had done for me and return to my hospital room.

When I was around 22, a group of us in the hospital discussed what we could do for peace. We proposed building a statue of a girl holding an origami-style crane and having it placed in the Peace Park, which was eventually realized. Later we successfully lobbied for a fountain to be built in memory of those who died crying out for water.

My health problems persisted one after another, and my life was a constant series of encounters with death. I married and became pregnant, but in the seventh month I kept vomiting blood uncontrollably. Numerous blood transfusions saved my life, but my unborn baby died. Finally, four years later, I was able to give birth to a healthy baby boy.

Many of us survivors have had to pay huge medical expenses over the years because the government refuses to recognize the relationship between atomic bomb exposure and our illnesses. I applied for official recognition of my cirrhosis as an A-bomb disease, but my claim was rejected. So, together with others suffering like myself, I filed a lawsuit against the government. It requires great energy and courage to speak in public as a plaintiff. My health is weak and I often wanted to give up. But thanks to the encouragement of many supporters and my son, I carried on.

In March 2009, we won at the Tokyo High Court, and in July the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare officially recognized liver dysfunction as an A-bomb disease. All medical treatment of recognized diseases is free, and sufferers receive a special monthly medical allowance. Imagining how happy this would make many others like me, I was completely overjoyed.

It is my fervent belief that nuclear arms should never be manufactured. Once they are made, people will feel compelled to use them. I support every effort toward their abolition including the plan for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

For 64 years, since I was exposed to the A-bomb, my life has been a living hell. But I am a Buddhist and I would never want anyone else to experience such suffering. I am determined to continue speaking out. I tell myself, "You can't be defeated by illness! Keep on going!"

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

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