Memories of nuclear bomb survivors - Part 2 Chapter 3

Death of the Taniguchi family


I thought “A bomb must have fallen nearby and l will die here.” I tried to move and free myself. Finally l succeeded in sticking my head between two beams which had been supporting the ceiling of the shelter. After half an hour l managed to push the soil and wood aside and freed myself. Outside l saw that all the houses around me had collapsed without exception. From Inasa l could now overlook Nagasaki where nothing was moving, as if time had stood still. As far as l could see, all the buildings had been turned to rubble. Here and there flames rose up and soon a fire started to spread. But nobody appeared to fight the flames. I was confused, not sure what had happened. In those days, we had not heard of the “nuclear bomb”, calling them instead “balloon bombs”. How could we know that they would emit ominous, radioactive rays?
Mrs Taniguchi and the grandmother were buried under the collapsed roof, crying for help with weak voices. I was not strong enough to free them myself, but there was nobody there to help me rescue them. Everyone l saw was busy saving themselves, most of them with burns covering their bodies. I laid aside roof tile after roof tile with my bare hands, continually calling out to the women to hold on. However, soon their pleading voices couldn’t be heard and l was left standing there helplessly.

The body of the boy who had called “a Japanese plane” was lying on the ground as if he had been thrown down from the veranda. He was charred as black as pitch. The heat radiation had probably hit him directly while he had been looking up at the sky. When l touched him, his skin peeled off with what l judged to be a thickness of about 1 centimetre. Not wishing to touch him anymore, l covered his body with a thin board which was lying there and gently laid a pebble from the garden in the palm of his hand. (Editor’s note: According to an old Japanese tradition, people place a coin in the palm of the hand of a dead person, so that he or she can pay the boat fare to the next world). Filled with sadness, l stroked his head a few times, paralyzed with horror, but at the same time unable to cry. l felt so sorry for the Taniguchi family - they had built the garden shelter to save their own lives, but it had only saved the life of a stranger, mine. I was filled with pity for them. My heart still aches for them when l think of their fate and remember the flash which had instantly separated the living from the dead.