Everyone’s head was gently bowed. Many muttered prayers for their lost loved ones. Others shed tears of pain and fear, unable to keep their emotions in check. They all turned the cenograph into a bouquet of its own, decorating it with thousands of flowers. Amongst them all stood a woman, whose face was still and calm but streaked with tears, as though she was enduring silent torture. She was a survivor of the brutal A- bombing. Her memories of that day were grotesque nightmares, ones she wanted to run away from; but sometimes, no matter how fast she ran, they seemed to catch up with her…. as they did now, hauling her mind away from the present.
August 6th 1945 was not unlike any other day for Kumiko. The morning sunlight that streamed in through the blinds forced her to open her droopy eyes. Sitting up, she yawned and stretched and began to get ready for school. Packing her bag, she skipped gently down the stairs and after a light breakfast, she kissed her mother and father lightly on the cheek and hugged them tight, unaware that it would be their last.
Kumiko walked to school beside her brother, who, on a routine basis, dropped his sister at school, not out of love, but because it was a responsibility given to him by their parents. For a brother and sister, Kumiko and Chan weren’t very close. They tried their best to steer clear of one another, but were forced to endure each other’s presence during the walk to school.
As usual, silence stood between them. Both of them were lost and engrossed in their own thoughts. The only sound was of airplanes whizzing past the hills. Even though this was highly unusual in the quiet town, no one paid much attention to it.
On reaching the school gate, she looked at the big clock face on the wall. It was 8:13. She was just in time for school. Following the mundane routine, Kumiko gave her brother a slight smile and walked into the school.
But everything changed in two minutes.
All of a sudden, the bright, sunny cloudless day turned a horrific dark one. There was smoke and ash everywhere. The smell of something burning over rid Kumiko’s senses. In shock she passed out into darkness. For the first few moments after regaining consciousness, she felt light, as though she was floating. Eventually she came back to normal, but what normal brought was painfull.
Slowly she pulled one of her hands up and examined it. Her skin was blackened and hanging, covered in small and large specks of her own blood. All of a sudden, she was queasy. She tried to get up, soon realizing that her legs were stuck beneath a large piece of what used to be the school wall. She was sure that something like this would hurt to a great extent, but her legs were too numb to feel the pain.
Unable to contain herself she burst into tears. Oh! The pain! The horror! Looking around, she saw lifeless bodies, all her dead friends and classmates, causing her to begin a whole new round of tears and wails.
All of a sudden, she heard movement. Looking to the left, she saw an injured teacher limping his way towards her, trailed by two fifth grade students.
On reaching her side, he gave Kumiko a quick once over. Silently he eyed the piece of the wall that crumpled her legs. Slowly, with all the forces of the teacher and students, the piece rose a little. As soon as they did, blood flowed through her leg. Her suppressed pain surfaced and she yelled, the pain corsing through her body. Unfortunately, the three of them weren’t strong enough to move the piece away, so they rested it back on her legs. This time she didn’t yell, but her eyes were scrunched up and tears were streaming down her face.
The four of them sat in a circle and started singing, waiting for any possible help. Their sounds were hoarse, a result of the lack of water.
All of a sudden, there was a familiar sound, a voice “KUMIKO!” he screamed, desperation in his voice. “AKI!” Kumiko screamed back. (Aki means brother in Japanese)
And soon enough, there stood her brother, with a bloody forehead and a dislocated ankle.
After exchanges of ‘are you okays? ’s and ‘I’m fine’s, they hugged. There was a certain relief when they hugged. They felt like life was worth the fight, like there was something worth living for. Sibling love that had never been there before blossomed to its fullest glory.
With his help, the teacher and the students pulled off the piece of the wall from the top of Kumiko’s legs. Enduring the pain, she rested her head against her brother’s strong, firm shoulder. She felt safe and secure and passed into deep slumber.
When she woke, she was in the Red Cross Hospital. Thousands of needles were pierced into her skin. She looked to the side to see that her brother was also in a similar situation. She was safe, so was her brother. Peacefully she slipped into unconsciousness.
After being discharged from the hospital Kumiko and her brother returned to Hiroshima, the sight of which made their hearts break. Where once there stood a beautiful city, there was now debris, dust and ash. Their old house had turned into a pile of rubble and ruins .
Struggling through the ruins of the city, Kumiko and her brother began a search for their parents. For months, the search continued. They searched ubiquitously, no place was left unsearched. But alas, with no success. After several months, they had no choice but to conclude that their parents were dead.
The loss of their parents, combined with the loss of their home and city left the siblings feeling gutted. All they had now was each other. And, at least, that was better than nothing at all.
There grew a strong relationship between the siblings. They were supportive, loving and caring about each other. Over the years, the bond became stronger and stronger, and today, there was no one closer to her than her brother.
Slowly, she returned to the present. Aware that her brother, seeing her in distress, had put a hand around her shoulder. With a sense of security enveloping her, she said a silent prayer, first for her own parents, then for those deceased during the bombing and finally for all the other survivors.
Leaving a bouquet of roses near the cenotaph, they turned and began walking to the exit of the Hiroshima Peace Park .
“Well kiddo”, my brother said softly “Now it’s you and me against the world.”
And after the treacherous memories of that wretched day, she relaxed, glad that even after losing almost everything, she still had her brother.