A survivor gives her account of the Hiroshima blast

Yoshiko Kajimoto, 88, who survived the Hiroshima blast, gave her testimony in front of the pope.

Nov 29, 2019

By Michael Sainsbury
Yoshiko Kajimoto, 88, who survived the Hiroshima blast, gave her testimony in front of the pope.

"When we were bombed, I was 14 years old and a third-year middle school student. At the time, I was 2.3 kilometers north of the hypocenter, making parts for airplane propellers. The moment a blue light flowed through the window, I thought it was a bomb," she told the hushed crowd.

"Then the factory collapsed with a loud sound, and I fainted. I became aware of my friends' screams, but it was dark and I couldn't move because I was buried under timber and tiles. I realized that a friend was under me, so I called out to see if she was alive.

"I tried to escape, but my right foot was stuck in the timber. When I finally pulled it out, my shin was torn and bleeding badly. When I went outside, all the surrounding buildings were destroyed. It was as dark as evening and smelled like rotten fish."

Ahead of the testimony and his speech, Pope Francis spent more than 30 minutes meeting interfaith leaders and other survivors and their families. In one particularly moving encounter with a female survivor, the pope wrapped his arms around her, bringing tears to the eyes of a woman who seemed like she had waited s lifetime for such a moment.

He then presented flowers to the Hiroshima War Memorial alone, prayed and called for a minute's silence, which was marked by the slow banging of a Japanese gong.

The audience of 2,000 people, consisting of locals, families and groups from the Philippines, which has more than 250,000 workers in Japan, sat respectfully in silence for the entire program save for standing ovations for the pope. Girls from local Catholic schools squealed with excitement and delight.

Vincent Itar, a member of the small local Catholic community, told ucanews ahead of the pope's arrival that he hoped Francis would give a strong message on nuclear weapons.

"It is really important because I am 50 years old. I cannot imagine the next time I can come here with my family — that is really important for me," he said.

"We are very happy to have a pope here. Even if Japan does not have so many Catholics, we have other members of the Catholic family from around Asia here to support the pope."

The Hiroshima event marked the end of a very long day for the 82-year-old pope, who began it in Tokyo, flew to Nagasaki, flew to Hiroshima and arrived back in the Japanese capital 16 hours later.

Typically, he beamed and listened during his brief personal meetings before delivering his warnings about war with gravitas, but he was clearly struggling as he walked off the main stage.--ucanews.org

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