With all the nuclear weapons ready to launch at a minute's notice around the globe, and in lieu of recent events involving North and South Korea flexing their military muscle; especially with North Korea threatening to drop a nuclear bomb on South Korea -- I thought I would share this true story as a lesson for all humanity.
As an atomic veteran who founded and directed the International Alliance of Atomic veterans, my father Anthony Guarisco, is a WWII and Korean war veteran who walked on the ashes of Hiroshima. He also got to meet Tsue Hayashi in Japan. I remember well my father telling me her story. May it leave a mental imprint on your soul (as it did mine) to never allow another nuclear bomb to explode -- ever.
Tsue Hayashi's only child was named Kayoko. In August 1945, Kayoko was fifteen years old. Like many her age, she had been mobilized for the war effort. She worked at the Shiroyama Primary School, which had been converted into a torpedo-assembly plant. The school was located in Nagasaki's Urakami district, 3.5 Kilometers from her home.
In a 1985
interview which was translated by Setsumi Del Tredici, Tsue Hayashi shared her
riveting story. It was originally published
in Tredici's 1987 book, "At Work In The Fields Of The Bomb." At the time of the
interview, Tsue was 84 years of age:
Tredici: The story of Kayoko's cherry trees is well known in Nagasaki, but outside Nagasaki not many people have heard of it. . .
Tsue: That is right. It is not known. I never meant it to be famous. I'd prefer people to leave Kayoko's cherry trees alone. The story came from my desire to pray for Kayoko's spirit and for everyone who died in the bomb.
Tredici: How does it begin?
Tsue: On the morning of August 9, I gave Kayoko her lunch box, and she went out of the house to go to work at the Shiroyama Primary School. A few minutes later she came back and put her lunch box down. I asked her, "What is wrong?" She said, "I don't feel like going to work today." This was unusual. Kayoko was a very serious girl. She always worked hard. This was the first time she had said something like this. I wanted to tell her, "Please take the day off," but I didn't. Her birthday was coming in two days, and I wanted her to take a day off then. If she took a day off now, that would make two days in one week. So I told her to go to work, and in two days she would have a holiday. She picked up her lunch box and went to work. I am the one who sent her away. I regret and regret and regret this.
Later that morning the bomb fell. At first I did not realize it was an atomic bomb. I just noticed bright and flashing, like sparks from a trolley car, and I heard thunder. I ran out of the house without my shoes on and saw the sky over Ukakami full of black smoke. It was unusual. My first thought was to get Kayoko. I started making my way toward Urakami, but the chief of my block saw me and called out, " Where are you going?" I told him, "Kayoki is in Urakami!" He grabbed me and said, " You'll die if you go there!" I stood there for a long time. The smoke began to turn into flames. I went home. People with burns on their faces and backs started going past my house. Some had skin hanging down like rags. I asked them, "How is Urakami?" And, "Have you seen Kayoko? She was working at the Shiroyama Primary School." They told me that a big bomb had been dropped and that Urakami had been destroyed.
The whole night I waited for Kayoko on the front porch. I kept praying for her to be alive. The morning after the bomb, and every day after that, from early morning until evening, I walked all over the city looking for Kayoko. I saw many people suffering and dying. It was very sad. I felt deeply the severe power of the A-bomb. I cannot remember seeing a single other person walking. Maybe this is because of the rumor that you will die sooner if you go into Urakami. There were no trees there, no grass, only a lot of broken roof tiles. And many corpses. I thought, "I've heard of hell. It must be like this." Some of the people were still dying. When I walked past them they would say, "Give me water. Please help me." I could only say "I'm sorry. I have no water. I can't help you. Forgive me. I have to look for my child."
When I was looking for my child I kept thinking about the wisdom of mankind. I wondered, "What on earth is this wisdom of mankind?" Whatever it was, I hated it.. It wasn't the bad people who were killed. The A-bomb killed everybody. Even condemned criminal have a better death than the people I saw suffering. I couldn't help them at all, I had to walk right through them. My feet were hurt and bleeding, but I kept thinking stubbornly about the wisdom of mankind. Who invented this bomb? If they had such great brains, why couldn't they also invent a way to help the victims recover? I knew there would be no answer to my question. I think mankind opened the lid of the box that God said not to open in the Bible. I hope mankind never uses the A-bomb again.
Day after day, for twenty-one days, I wandered, seeking my Kayoko. It was the middle of summer and the days were very hot. One time I was looking for Kayoko in the mountains and I saw a young women with a cotton shawl over her head, nursing her baby. I was frightened and wondered if she was a real human being. I went closer. I found out she was not a person in this world anymore. It was a corpse. When I saw that, I thought, "How Miserable!" Maybe only women will understand the feeling of nursing a baby. It was is a very pure and innocent time. It is like heaven in world. The A-bomb killed this women in that pure and innocent moment.
At first I was looking for a live child, but about halfway through my search I started looking for her among the corpses. But the corpses were so burned you could recognize only the shape of the skull. I decided to look at the corpses' teeth. My child had a row of teeth that was different from others'. Her front bottom teeth came out a little farther than usual. She was also starting treatment on a back tooth. So I opened the mouths of corpses to look at their teeth. Some of the corpses' mouths were closed very tightly. I had to pry them open.
One day I found a corpse whose teeth looked like my child's. I wasn't sure, though, because Kayoko's back tooth had not received a real filling yet, but the corpse whose teeth were like Kayoko's looked like it had a filling. Still I thought, "It's Kayoko," and I brought the remains back home. I had a funeral ceremony with my neighbors.
When I finished the funeral, my heart would not become calm. I had a dream at that time. In the dream I saw Kayoko wandering in the ruins. That made me think, "Kayoko is still waiting for me out there. Maybe she is even still alive, just barely breathing, and she can't call out." So I kept looking for my child every day, even after the funeral.
At last I found my real child. It finally happened twenty-one days after the bomb exploded. I found her on the top floor of the Shiroyama Primary School. This was the third time I had gone up there to look for her. To get to the third floor, I had to crawl, because the stairway had been destroyed.
Tredici: How did you know it was the real Kayoko this time?
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