In remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I am reblogging a post from March, 2012 and including an excerpt from The Red Kimono. In this scene, Sachi is wondering about the impact of the bomb.
AUGUST 9, 1945
A giant bomb dropped
In a land far away, yet
Close enough to hurt.
Of course, Sachi knew what a bomb was. But Papa said the one that fell on Hiroshima was an atomic bomb. She had never heard that word before—atomic. He wouldn’t tell her much, but she knew something very bad had happened. If only he understood; wondering was much worse than knowing.
So many things told Sachi this was something too terrible to talk about—at least to children. But she wasn’t a child! She was almost twelve. When would they trust her to understand grown-up things?
She would never forget what had happened the day before, when she returned to camp from Jubie’s house. As soon as she walked through the gate, she heard women crying inside the barracks. Men were walking up and down the barracks’ rows with strange, sad looks on their faces. Sometimes they stopped and whispered in small groups; other times, they shuffled along in a daze.
That day, she’d walked into their dark apartment and found Mama and Papa sitting across from each other at the table. The only light in the room came from a candle flickering between them. Incense burned next to it. She noticed Papa wore the very same grim expression he had worn the day he heard about Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.
Mama’s o-juzu beads made clicking noises as she tousled them in her hands. Her eyes red and puffy, she shook her head and whimpered.
“Okaasan. Otosan.” Mama. Papa.
Papa took her hand and walked with her to her room behind the curtain. They sat on the bed. “Sachi, something terrible has happened. But, do not be afraid. We will be fine,” he said, patting her leg.
“What, Papa? What happened?”
“It appears the United States dropped a bomb on Hiroshima.”
She shrugged her shoulders, confused. “But don’t they drop bombs all the time in a war?”
“This was a bomb that does even more damage. An atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, where your obaasan and ojiisan live.”
Sachi gasped. No wonder Mama was so sad.
“Many people had family in Hiroshima. If it is true, it will be a very long time before we know who might have been hurt there.”
She had heard the others talking. Papa was protecting her. It wasn’t only injuries that worried everyone. Though they always whispered when children were around, she heard the whispers about a city the size of San Francisco being completely destroyed. They said that hundreds of thousands might have died. She imagined San Francisco completely destroyed and suddenly understood the horror of the atomic bomb.
The whispers turned to talk of Japan’s surrender. She didn’t know a lot about war, but if the United States was at war with Japan, wouldn’t surrender be a good thing? Then why were the women crying? And why did some of the men look so angry?
If the war was over, wouldn’t everyone get to go home, at last?
Thank you to Google for its March 14, 2012 Google Doodle that reminded me of Akira Yoshizawa‘s 101st birthday. Though I’ve always enjoyed origami, before today, I never really thought about who inspired its popularity.
Thinking about origami reminded me of a trip my mother, sisters and daughter took to Japan a few years ago.
There, we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
Of course I’d read the history of Hiroshima. But, even six decades later, the vision of what remains of the damage is startling. My first reaction was to deny to myself that our nation could have been responsible for such destruction. But of course, how could I deny it?
As we walked around the memorial site, a group of Japanese boys approached us, and asked if we would let them walk with us and answer any questions we might have about the memorial…
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