Letter from Nagasaki

Article excerpt

Letter from Nagasaki

DIRECTLY after the bomb exploded, the reaction of those who could still move was either to remain where they had been at the time of the explosion or to flee immediately. Those who stayed where they were--either to help injured friends or to try to save their apartment, office or factory--were quickly hemmed in by the flames and perished along with those they had wanted to save. When the fire came closer, we took refuge on the hill near our hospital. In this way my neighbours and I escaped death by a hair's-breadth.

Here and there we came across medical students and nurses lying on the ground. We picked them up and carried them a little further up the hill, out of reach of the fire. All the time I was urging those around me to move faster.

I had a gash on the right temple and was losing a lot of blood. Eventually I collapsed. When I came to, I found that I was lying in the grass beneath the billowing eddies of the atomic cloud. I was suffering terribly from my wound and had to grit my teeth to overcome the pain. Then I began to think about my wife. If she were still alive, I told myself, she would have already joined me.

Next day, looking down from the hill behind the clinic, I could see the ruins of my house. Nothing remained of Urakami but a great pile of white ashes. Nothing moved, wherever one looked, in the clear morning light.

I had seen my beloved faculty and all the students to whom I was so attached engulfed in a flash by the flames. My wife was now nothing but a little heap of charred bones which I collected one by one in the ruins of our house. Her remains weighed no heavier than a parcel you might send through the post. She had died in the kitchen.

As for me, "atomic sickness' in its most acute form now added its effects to those of the long-standing illness caused by my research into X-rays. …