Testimony of Yoshitaka Kawamoto

Mr. Yoshitaka Kawamoto was thirteen years old. He was in the classroom at Zakoba-cho, 0.8 kilometers away from the hypocenter. He is now working as the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, telling visitors from all over the world what the atomic bomb did to the people of Hiroshima.

KAWAMOTO: One of my classmates, I think his name is Fujimoto, he muttered something and pointed outside the window,saying, "A B-29 is coming." He pointed outside with his finger. So I began to get up from my chair and asked him, "Where is it?" Looking in the direction that he was pointing towards, I got up on my feet, but I was not yet in an upright position when it happened. All I can remember was a pale lightening flash for two or three seconds. Then, I collapsed. I don t know much time passed before I came to. It was awful, awful. The smoke was coming in from somewhere above the debris. Sandy dust was flying around. I was trapped under the debris and I was in terrible pain and that's probably why I came to. I couldn't move, not even an inch. Then, I heard about ten of my surviving classmates singing our school song. I remember that. I could hear sobs. Someone was calling his mother. But those who were still alive were singing the school song for as long as they could. I think I joined the chorus. We thought that someone would come and help us out. That's why we were singing a school song so loud. But nobody came to help, and we stopped singing one by one. In the end, I was singing alone. Then I started to feel fear creeping in. I started to feel my way out pushing the debris away little by little, using all my strength. Finally I cleared the things around my head. And with my head sticking our of the debris, I realized the scale of the damage. The sky over Hiroshima was dark. Something like a tornado or a big fire ball was storming throughout the city. I was only injured around my mouth and around my arms. But I lost a good deal of blood from my mouth, otherwise I was OK. I thought I could make my way out. But I was afraid at the thought of escaping alone. We had been going through military drills everyday, and they had told us that running away by oneself is an act of cowardice, so I thought I must take somebody along with me. I crawled over the debris, trying to find someone who were still alive. Then, I found one of my classmates lying alive. I held him up in my arms. It is hard to tell, his skull was cracked open, his flesh was dangling out from his head. He had only one eye left, and it was looking right at me. First, he was mumbling something but I couldn't understand him. He started to bite off his finger nail. I took his finger out from his mouth. And then, I held his hand, then he started to reach for his notebook in his chest pocket, so I asked him, I said, ``You want me to take this along to hand it over to your mother?'' He nodded. He was going to faint. But still I could hear him crying out, saying ``Mother, Mother'' I thought I could take him along. I guess that his body below the waist was crashed. The lower part of his body was trapped, buried inside of the debris. He just adhered to go, he told me to go away. And by that time, another wing of the school building, or what used to be the school building, had caught on fire. I tried to get to the playground. Smoke was filling in the air, but I could see the white sandy earth beneath. I thought this must be the playground, then I started to run in that direction. I turned back and I saw my classmates Wada looking at me. I still remember the situation and is still appears in my dreams. I felt sorry for him, but it was the last time I ever saw him. I, so, was running, hands were trying to grab my ankles, they were asking me to take them along. I was only a child then. And I was horrified at so many hands trying to grab me. I was in pain, too. So all I could do was to get rid of them, it s terrible to say, but I kicked their hands away. I still feel bad about that. I went to Miyuki Bridge to get some water. At the river bank, I saw so many people collapsed there. And the small steps to the river were jammed, filled with people pushing their way to the water. I was small, so I pushed on the river along the small steps. The water was dead people. I had to push the bodies aside to drink the muddy water. We didn't know anything about radioactivity that time. I stood up in the water and so many bodies were floating away along the stream. I can t find the words to describe it. It was horrible. I felt fear. Instead of going into the water, I climbed up the river bank. I couldn't move. I couldn't find my shadow. I looked up. I saw the cloud, the mushroom cloud growing in the sky. It was very bright. It had so much heat inside. It caught the light and it showed every color of the rainbow. Reflecting on the past, it s strange, but I could say that it was beautiful. Looking at the cloud, I thought I would never be able to see my mother again, I wouldn't be able to see my younger brother again. And then, I lost consciousness. When I came to, it was about seven in the evening. I was the transportation bureau at Ujina. I found myself lying on the floor of the warehouse. And an old soldier was looking in my face. He gave me a light slap on the cheek and he said, "You are a lucky boy." He told me that he had gone with one of the few trucks left to collect the dead bodies at Miyuki Bridge. They were loading bodies, treating them like sacks. They picked me up from the river bank and then, threw me on top of the pile. My body slid off and when they grabbed my by the arm to put me back onto the truck, they felt that my pulse was still beating, so they reloaded me onto the truck, carrying the survivors. I was really lucky. But I couldn't stand for about a year. I was so weak. My hair came off, even the hair in my nose fell out. My hair, it started to come off about two weeks later. I became completely bald. My eyes, I lost my eye sight, probably not because of the radioactivity, but because I became so weak. I couldn`t see for about three months. But I was only thirteen, I was still young, and I was still growing when I was hit by the A-bomb. So about one year later. I regained my health. I recovered good health. Today I am still working as you can see. As the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, today, I am handing my message over to the children who visit. I want them to learn about Hiroshima. And when they grow up, I want them to hand down the message to the next generation with accurate information. I'd like to see him conveying the right sense of judgment so that we will not lead mankind to annihilation. That is our responsibility.

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