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Gender Female  Age at time of bombing 16 
Recorded on 2003.11.5  Age at time of recording 74 
Location at time of bombing Hiroshima(Direct exposure Distance from the bombing hypocenter:1.5km) 
Location when exposed to the bombing Senda, Hiroshima City [Current Naka-ku, Hiroshima City] 
Status at time of bombing High school or university student 
Occupational status at time of bombing Training School for Relief Nurses, Hiroshima Branch Hospital, Japan Red Cross Society 
Hall site Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims 
Dubbed in English/
With English subtitles
With English subtitles 

TOMONAGA Tamiko was 16 years old when she was exposed to the atomic bomb  1.5 km from the hypocenter in Senda-machi. The nurse dormitory at the Red Cross Hospital was a dreadful sight. That day began our hard struggles, with my mother and me working to support everyone.

I was living in the dormitory of the Training School for Relief Nurses, Hiroshima Branch Hospital, Japan Red Cross Society. As a student, my knowledge was mostly gained from listening to lectures. So, when the A-bomb was dropped, I was still an inexperienced nurse. We had classes every day, but air strikes often forced us to take refuge in  the bomb shelter. Classes were often called off for this reason. Despite all this, we were living and doing the work with all our might. We didn't have enough to eat, so we would go out to pick wild plants. We boiled them and seasoned them with vinegared miso paste. We dug up the athletic field and planted sweet potatoes in it. We were young and still developing, so food shortages were especially hard on us. 

In a season of clear, sunny days, that day came in as one of the hottest. The sight of the beautiful red blooms of the oleander is embedded deeply in my mind. The students were studying in dormitory rooms because classes had been called off that day. Public hygiene was much worse in those days, so  flies were buzzing all over the place. I was on fly duty. At 8 a.m., I noticed them swarming around the laundry room and  picked up a swatter. Just when I chased them into the laundry room, there was a sudden flash behind me. The laundry building was a thin, frail structure. For that reason, though it collapsed on top of me, I was able to crawl out. Everyone on the first floor of the two-story building was buried when it collapsed.

After the flash, things began falling on me, and I was blinded by a yellow cloud of sand. The blast blew things over and crumbled them. Stuff piled up on my body. I was trying so hard to crawl out  I passed out along the way. When I regained consciousness, I found myself on top of the fallen wall that had surrounded the dormitory. I took the crouching position  we'd been trained to take. I looked around in a daze, but couldn't see a thing. I was feeling distressed and lonely, as if alone in the middle of the desert. After a while, the smoke started to clear up. Everything happened in an instant. I was stunned. I couldn't make out what had just happened. Then various voices came along and when I looked, I saw the man in charge of kitchen work.  He was covered with white dust. His white robe and his head were all white. But bright red blood was streaming down from his face With faltering steps, he was trying his best to take out a fire extinguisher to fulfill his duty. Initially I was thinking I must have been left behind, but the second I realized that everyone must still be under the collapsed buildings, I started running to where they were. There was strange screaming, like cries in hell. Loud voices were calling for mother or the head nurse. One was saying "I can't breathe.″ She had fallen into the toilet cesspool. I still clearly remember the name and even the voice of that person saying "Come help! I'm choking." I heard all kinds of screaming. As much as I wanted to help, the beams were so big I could not move them at all. While a few managed to crawl out, most never did.

I had many cuts on my back, probably from when the wall fell on me. But my injuries were relatively light. There were 200 of us students and we were called together that evening. But the severely wounded had been taken to a ward. Only 36 of us were able to walk to the assembly. I was one of them. I did have pain but was not seriously hampered by the cuts and bruises on my body. Some had their heads split open, with their brains protruding. Others had fractured ribs. One student had shards of glass sticking out of her throat. It was all she could do to gasp the air as she breathed. I remember Chief Morinaga. She's gone now, but…. She seemed to have a great sense of duty to save her students. She herself had so much pain and suffering, judging from the amount of blood on her. But using a bandage made from bed sheets to secure her injured arm, she worked with her good arm to save her students. Later I learned she had a broken rib, but she never uttered a single word of complaint In this horrible situation, I was one of the few with only light wounds.

In a few days military trucks were bringing sufferers to our hospital. More and more patients died, and the grounds were filled with dead bodies. Many walked into the hospital hallway and suddenly fell down never to move again. The presence of too many dead made nursing difficult, so those who were lightly wounded, like me, carried the dead outside on stretchers. The entire city of Hiroshima burnt down. We could see all across it with nothing to block our view.

When I looked from a window, I saw something like people standing in a line. When I looked closer, I saw it was a line of burnt patients. Burnt black, naked people were coming on foot in what appeared to be an endless line. So many, coming from every direction, trudging towards the hospital. Rather than surprise, I actually felt fear. As I looked out from the courtyard where I was working, I saw crowds of people staggering toward us. I still can't shake the image of one person I saw at that time. Too burned to tell even gender, hairless, the nose missing, and burnt all over. This person walking step by step must have had a fierce desire to live. Upon reaching the entrance of the hospital and feeling relieved, he or she collapsed and remained motionless. But I had eye contact with that face, just for an instant. I saw so many patients, but that face always remains in my mind.

After a week or so, many people experienced drastic hair loss, and their gums started to bleed. One morning my friend from Miyazaki was washing her face. I was standing next to her and was fixing my hair. When I tried to bind it together, it made a noise and all fell out at once. I burst into tears in complete shock. Almost all of us lost our hair and had bleeding gums. Many also had diarrhea. However, dysentery was prevalent then so, at first, we thought the bloody stools were  because of dysentery. But that, too, was a symptom of radiation exposure. There were many with bloody diarrhea.

It was the 17th as I remember, but an older friend insists it was 19th when we left Hiroshima. We were engaged in relief activities for over 10 days. We left Hiroshima on the 17th, taking three days or so to get back to Miyazaki. On the way, we took a train, hitched a ride on a military truck, and walked in the blazing heat. I remember someone gave us some rice balls.That is what we had for food. We managed to get from Hiroshima to Miyazaki in three days.

I was just of marriageable age so I listened carefully to all relevant information. I heard  about babies born deformed or with microcephaly. Because I didn't want to leave such offspring, I was determined never to marry. I tried very hard to stick to living by myself. I ended up joining the self-defense force and met a man who later became my husband. As we talked, I learned that he was also a survivor. He had not been exposed directly but had entered the city and was exposed to a lot of residual radiation. His liver had been damaged. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in April 1993, developing a 7cm phyma.  I was told there was no way to treat him and he had only two months to live. He went into the hospital and died on June 8th. We had married hoping to help each other as A-bomb survivors. I was  28.

We were very much afraid that I would not be able to deliver a healthy baby. But we couldn't speak to anyone about our fear. As soon as I gave birth, I asked the doctor if my baby had all its fingers and toes. When I learned the baby was fine, I felt nothing but gratitude. My husband and I both cried with joy. Until the very moment of birth, I felt terrible anxiety. What if it was deformed? Now that my child has grown up normal, I want to forget that ordeal. Still, it flashes back once in a while. I was just so worried.
Due to sciatic neuralgia, I frequently experience a sharp pain. My leg hurts whenever I move it. This happens from time to time. My deformity normally appears at birth or during the years of rapid growth, so mine is recognized as an atomic bomb disease.

All my parents could do was find food to keep us alive. I  worked and gave my mother my entire salary as soon as I received it. My salary was the sole source of income for my whole family. We had some land, so we grew things to eat. But we had very little cash. Because my salary was the only stream of income for my family, I worked so hard that I forgot to dress up or put on make-up. I would help my mother with the farm work on  weekends and days off. All I could do was work to protect my six siblings, my mother and myself. We had no time to talk about what was going on with us. We couldn't afford the time. All I could think about was making it through each day to raise my little brothers. That was it.

I have various thoughts and feelings, but I'm definitely furious about the atomic bombing. Was it necessary? Why? No one who saw what that bombing did would race to build weapons for so-called nuclear deterrence. People were burned black. They couldn't even raise their voices to answer when their names were called. I can still see the faces of friends who died under collapsed buildings. They remain in my mind as they were, the same ages, but when I think of how they must have felt and about their unfulfilled lives, all I can do is shiver.

Even after 56 years of taking action and raising our voices, the world is not turning in the right direction. Still, I believe we should never give up. Looking back at history, we can recall times when people exerted their will. Sometimes, actions not rewarded at first get good results 100 years later. We should never give up. History tells us we will succeed in the end. It does make me feel sad seeing that our wish is being ignored, but I will never abandon hope. As long as I have life, I will keep shouting about this. I just want to believe that it will bear fruit some day.

Translated by Haruka Shinno
Editorial supervision by Steven Leeper and Miwako Sawada
Translation coordination: NET-GTAS(Network of Translators for the Globalization of the Testimonies of Atomic Bomb Survivors)

*Many more memoirs can be viewed at both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Memorial Halls.
*These contents are updated periodically.
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