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A Year of Living Positively -Day 232

Y arrived promptly at one o'clock to meet me at my hotel. We walked back to the train station from there, getting reacquainted along the way. He bought a ticket from the machine for me, though I paid him in cash, of course, and we got on the next train bound for Hiroshima. We talked about the Mission, what AWC-Korea and ILPS had been doing in the previous three days of the Mission, and the work of AWC in Japan. Y briefed me on the whole Japan program, which he had meticulously typed out in excellent English. When we arrived at Hiroshima train station, he rented a car.

He said he got messages telling him that the protest camp was torn down and protesters beaten by police shortly after the AWC-Korea supporters left yesterday

The first item on the program was a visit with an A-bomb survivor. We joined the Korean AWC/Leftworkers youth and the AWC-Japan youth group in a room in a community center to hear a firsthand account of the holocaust. 

The speaker was an 11-year old boy on August 6, 1945 and it was his birthday. Tomorrow, on the 69th anniversary of the bombing, he will turn 80. There is no celebration on his birthday, but instead a memorial. This man works tirelessly year-round all year to inform younger people of his story and discourage nuclear weapons and all nuclear technology. He is a member of the survivors' group affiliated with the AWC in Japan. 

He described how he and his mom made a trip from an air-raid evacuation camp in the mountains to the city center to get supplies, as did many Hiroshima residents that day, because the bombing had subsided. They wanted to go to the family home outside the city center and it was too far to walk. It was Monday morning and the transit system was overloaded by 7:30 a.m., so they were stuck there. That is where they were when the A-bomb exploded 750 meters from them.

The buildings shattered sending glass and schrapnel everywhere, killing some and injuring more. Then a fiery hot wind swept the city. He and his mother laid down on the ground. When they got up, everything looked black. As the smoke cleared they saw many buildings demolished as far away as two kilometers. They wanted to escape the center of town but walked the wrong way right through the hypocenter. People walking by were burning; black patches on their torso spread and bled, and hair and skin were falling off. Many people collapsed and many were already dead on the ground. Many of the injured were in such shock that they did not realize they were burning. Because most buildings were made of wood, the fires spread quickly, aided by the kitchen fires that had been set for cooking breakfast.

The pair saw some Japanese soldiers and followed them going north towards the river. Around 1,000 people had fled to the river in a vain attempt to alleviate themselves in the water but many collapsed and fell into the water. Bodies floated by. Those still mobile filled the boats. The mother and son found space on an old boat. It was then that the boy started vomiting and experiencing a severe headache but the spell soon passed. He saw normal skin on the bare arms of women start blistering and turning red and black, eventually slipping off their bodies. Since the flames of fire were approaching the river, the people crossed the river. On the other side of the river, they rested at the foot of a tree at a shrine. They learned that the shrine and tree burned down later that day. The black rain began, but the rain was light and they were wearing hats. The heavy rain fell on the West side of the city. They continued to follow some soldiers farther north. They found a well and drank, but the boy began vomiting again right after drinking.  Military trucks arrived there and took them away.

Some 350,000 people were directly exposed to radiation in Hiroshima that day. The injuries they suffered included split ear drums, melting and missing eyes, and fractured bones. The evacuees waited for a rescue train, but the train was delayed due to damage to the tracks. Some of the evacuees died on the train. The train stopped to pick up corpses along the way. Mother and son returned to the evacuation center in the mountains by around five o'clock. They were the only ones to return among all who had gone to the markets in Hiroshima that day. The mountain evacuation center leader helped everyone. On August 7, the were able to find and drink rice water. After two weeks, they went to their house in Hiroshima, which was 10 kilometers from the transit station where they were when the bomb went off.

The boy's hair began falling out by August 9th. He would get episodes of high fever and vomiting in cycles. His mother got sicker and sicker with a black spot expanding on her torso and died on September 1st. His grandfather, who was a doctor, came for the funeral and predicted his grandson would soon die after examining him. However, his fevers and vomiting began to subside by September 2nd and thereafter stopped altogether. He was able to eat good food and return to school. The baby sister, who had been kept at the house on August 6, died in October from having drunk his mother's milk. 

The speaker is upset over the Fukushima Daichi Power Station disaster. He said that he cannot forgive the lies and lack of concern and action for the safety of workers and residents. The radiation contamination there had an impact similar to that of the A-bombs, yet the information is suppressed and authorities are in denial. All operations of all reactors in Japan have been suspended but today there is talk of resuming operations, and this is upsetting to the survivors. They are opposed to all uses of nuclear technology and want a complete moratorium followed by a total abolition.

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