World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

An eye-witness account of Hiroshima

(Suggested as a possible reading at prayers for peace on Hiroshima Day)

05 August 1983

Adapted from an account by Murakami Toshio

(Suggested as a possible reading at prayers for peace on Hiroshima Day)

Here is how the explosion took place:  in the back yard there was a tremendous ear-piercing sound, or rather something that did not resemble a sound, and at the same time a crimson fire-ball about ten metres in diameter flashed upon the retina of my eyes.  The next instant I found myself lying face down.  With the flash, as if from a thousand thunderbolts, our one-story tile-roofed house went down with a crash, and the thick dust kicked up by the blast and by the crumbling house enveloped everything in darkness. With all my might, I frantically managed to drag myself out of the tangled pile of mercilessly ripped timbers.

And what did I see as I looked around for any possible help in terror and uneasiness!  I rubbed my eyes many times, but, to be sure, I had before me an utterly unearthly scene, defying all imagination.  Everywhere, as far as my eyes could reach, all the houses had collapsed, all the trees and electric poles had been broken down.  About two kilometres away, around the spot which later proved to be the explosion centre, thick dark smoke whirled up from a sea of yellowish dust.

I remained stunned, completely stunned.  The next moment I heard a faint groan, then disconnected words that seemed to come up from the bottom of the earth:  "Yuko . . . dead . . . I’m dying . . . don't stay ..." It was my wife, but it was not anything like a voice uttered by a human being:  it was a voice squeezed out from the last bit of life in death's grip. "What? Be strong now! . . . Where are you? Where are you?" As if in reply, a pile of tangled timbers moved with a creaking noise.  Bleeding all over, my wife stood upright, with our two-month-old baby tightly in her arms.

All around us we heard shouting, groaning, cursing, voices calling father, voices calling mother, voices in search of brothers and sisters. All over the central part of town flames were shooting out as if the earth's crust had been ripped open. And these sorely burnt men and women all in stark nakedness!  It was as if our corrupt world had come to an end, giving way to hell. My wife was most painfully wounded.  On her whole body were stuck countless fragments of glass, large and small, that reflected pallid lights like a glittering spearhead of a demon.  She could see nothing.

I took my wife on my back, and held the baby on my left arm. We walked three hundred metres, stepping barefooted on the debris and broken sheets of glass that went to pieces under our weight, and took refuge on a sand bank in a river where the tide had ebbed. Here we joined hundreds of suffering people, and the sound of the frantic search of parents for their children was heartrending enough to make one giddy.

We, the people of Hiroshima, crushed by nightmares, exasperation, resignation and hardships, have come to hate war, more than any other people, and above everything else. We have eagerly sought for peace, being so urged from the bottom of our hearts, from our very innermost core. We have seen with our own eyes, we have perceived with our minds, and we have lived that first and greatest of human tragedies.  My child, remember the unfortunate experiences that you had when you were still very young. Learn to hate strife, and grow up to love peace.