The second time I went to Japan, I visited Nagasaki. Since I’d been to Hiroshima before, I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. I guess nothing can prepare you for the results of war.
Inside the Atomic Bomb Museum, I remember seeing guards here and there around the perimeter. I thought I was fine. Then I saw the outline of a woman embedded forever in the stone steps she was sitting on while the bomb went off. Next I saw a diorama of children standing with their skin dripping off. I do cry easily and I also think I hide it well, usually that is. I was shocked to hear loud sobs coming out of me. I didn’t mean to do that. A guard was instantly at my elbow. He asked me (in English) where I was from? I sobbed the United States. I remember escaping to the ladies room till I could compose myself.
There were buttons on the wall that you could push to hear survivors tell their experiences. I couldn’t listen to very many. This is one story paraphrased by me and subject to the limits of my memory.
A survivor related that she came to an elementary school that was devastated. In all the rubble, she heard a small voice and searched through the bodies till she found one that was alive.
The child said “Water.”
The person looked around and found a piece of rug. She ran and dipped it in a stream and let the water drip off it into the child’s mouth. The child said “Thank you,” and died.
I bought this book, FOOTPRINTS OF NAGASAKI which is a compilation of the experiences of girls from the Nagasaki Prefectural Girl’s High School. I thought I would read it, but I have only been able to skim it.
Outside in the courtyard there was a display of school children’s art – pictures of peace. It was very healing to see them, pictures in rainbow colors with all the earnestness of children’s wishes.
© 2010 J.B. Vadeboncoeur