“There are so many stories about hibakusha—too many to absorb. But there is always one story that will stay with you. Always. You just have to find it.” These are the words a young woman “Ami” told Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of the memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Rizzuto weaves transcripts of her interviews of the atomic bomb survivors, the hibakusha, and her own narrative of piecing together this story, infusing the personal and political elements that shape memory and history.
It is UN Disarmament Week, and two hibakusha have come to New York to serve as ” Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons.”
Wan and I had a chance to hear them speak at Teachers College in an event organized by the Peace Education program.
“Call me Grandma,” Kazue Sueishi told the intimate classroom that had filled to hear her story. Born in America, Sueishi returned to Hiroshima as a child with her parents. She recalled her parents talking fondly of America. In her nursery school, she remembered being asked to draw something. She drew something beautiful with lots of crayon colors, and when asked what it was, she said, “America”
When the war started, she said. She didn’t feel angry. She saw a silver American B-29 plane everyday. She would refer to it as an angel. “Good Morning Angel,” she would say.
On August 6, 1945, her family had finished breakfast (an American style breakfast she added). She was 18 years old at the time and worked in a military factory. She had a slight fever and stayed home sick that day. She was out on the street with her friend when it happened. Blue sky. Powerful flash. She covered her eyes with 4 fingers and ears with her thumbs, then slid to a safe spot like a baseball player sliding into home base. B-29 had left Hiroshima. She talked about the burns on her father, how the school building collapsed on her brother. She saw school children 5-6 years old escaping with their teacher, crying out for their mommies. She had given them a drink of water and umeboshi pickles which soothed them temporarily. Later she went to check on them, and all of them were dead. That is the reality of the bomb.