Middle School News & Stories
From left: Toyoko Tasaki, Akiko Tojo, and Kazuko Horiba
The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as the Hibakusha, are now well into their 70s and 80s. As the years pass, and their numbers decline, the fervency of their anti-war message is intensifying.
Every five years, a group of Hibakusha and their adult children travel to the United States to testify at a conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the United Nations. They speak to schools, churches, and community groups here about the importance of disarming nuclear weapons and working toward world peace.
This year, about 40 Hibakusha and their adult children made the trip. On Wednesday, two Hibakusha and the daughter of a survivor told their stories at a Middle School assembly.
Kazuko Horiba was 3 and living in Nagasaki when the bomb fell. Her sister was 8 months old. They were 3.6 kilometers from the center of the explosion. When her sister was 19, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor near her lungs and died three months later. Doctors determined that her death was caused by radiation exposure.
"Until now, it has been difficult for me to talk about this past," she said. "Last year marked 50 years since the death of my sister. Finally I am ready to talk about her."
Akiko Tojo was living in Tokyo in March of 1945 during the great Tokyo bombing. More than 100,000 people died overnight. So her mother took Akiko, who was then 10, and her siblings, ages 7, 3, and 1, to a town four kilometers from Hiroshima. She was at school when the bomb fell. "It was as if the sun had blown up," she said. She witnessed the terrible injuries of neighbors who had been in the city closer to the explosion, and was profoundly affected by the mushroom cloud that hung over the city.
"The cloud loomed bright red in the night sky, and gray in the morning light. It maintained its shaped for three days. Finally on the fourth day the mushroom began to lose its shape, and faded away. Even now, the image of the crimson mushroom cloud is embedded in my memory as if on film."
She experienced health problems that she attributes to explosion. As she said, her "mind and body were shattered by the traumatic experience." In Buddha's teachings, she found a way forward. "In order to make sure that the war victims did not die in vain," she said, "we must work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons and a world without warfare."
Toyoko Tasaki, whose mother was 10 when the bomb fell on Nagasaki, said her mother suffered from a chronic liver disorder and ultimately died from bile duct cancer. She worries that she, too, will experience health problems caused by her mother's exposure to radiation. "I may die from some influence of the radaiation that she was exposed to as a 10 year old," she said. "I have a five-year-old daughter. Her health may be affected. We do not know. That is what is scary."
She is committed to carrying on her mother's work, although she knows that her voice does not carry the same weight as the survivors' accounts. "It is not an easy story to tell." she said. "People don’t live forever. The Hibakusha are in their 80s. There's a second generation but there is a difference betwehn the Hibakusha talking about it and the second generation."
Members of the Hibakushas' delegation and Riverdale parents after the Assembly