Keiko Ogura’s Interview
Keiko Ogura is a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor. She was eight years old on August 6, 1945, when the US dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima. She eventually married Kaoru Ogura, who served as director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and passed away in 1979. After his death, she took up the mission to spread knowledge about the bombings and keep the survivors’ stories alive.
In this interview, Ogura recalls the events of August 6 and how her family survived the bombing. She also discusses the long-term physical and physiological impacts she and other hibakusha suffered, as well as the social stigma of being atomic bomb survivors.
Keiko Ogura: This is the west end. There was a hill. People rushed to the foot of this hill for fleeing from the city. And then you see the white area. That is the sea area. We are facing south, the southern area, here. Usually, we see Miyajima Island around here. This one, maybe. And I saw the city, completely burned city, from the seventh, every day from the area, here. I saw the city actually was like this. This is two months after. Even though two months after the bombing, and nothing happened, just clean up.
Then, this building is the only building. Near this building, left in the park, there is a Children’s Peace Monument, Sadako with paper cranes here. Those buildings are the other side of the river between the park. The park here, the other side, and the downtown area. There is a river, and then those buildings were banks, insurance companies, and major [inaudible]. Then, behind this long chimney, this direction, there is the Hiroshima train station. Then in front of the train station, you see the hill. I was here, the other side of the hill, 2.4 kilometers, about 1.5 miles away, and here. That means this is the area where I was.
I was eight years old, and until 8 years—younger than 8, and including 8—could stay in the city. But over eight years old—that means from 9 to 12, around—those elementary school children had to – shall I sit down. Had to evacuate to the temple, monastery temple. The high school students, junior high school students, around 13 to 15, they were staying in the city and working. The first year and the second-year students, younger, the younger level, they helped the people, adults, break down houses and to demolish. I will show you where I was.
Okay, here you can see. I lived here. This is 1,000 meters area. Previous year, I was in this area, number 24, you see. Within that 1,000-meter area, about 60 percent of people died. I was there and I entered elementary school there. This is my elementary school. So if I stayed there longer, I might be dead, but when I was living there, 1,000 meters within the radius, this area, one day my father said, “We have to move as soon as possible.” That was the year previous to the atomic bombing.
Because we moved a little bit further from the hypocenter, we could survive. I was so lucky that time. But I actually did not want to leave from the center part of the city because I was born here. Most of my life was here. And the name [of her new neighborhood] that was in Japanese, Ushita. “Ushi” means “cow” and “ta” means “rice field.” “Oh, cow and rice field. I don’t want to go such a place!” I said.
But thanks to my father’s decision, we moved, and I could survive. The reason why my father wanted to move was in the center part, there was not a shelter in case there was an air raid warning siren we heard. Every time we heard it, even though that was around midnight, we got up and had to run and try to find out the public shelter here. From here and here, I have to go, and everybody in the center part of the city did. There was no shelter. So dangerous, but couldn’t help. My father wanted to make a firm shelter for his family, he thought.
And then, you see those. There were seven rivers those days, but the rivers were full of the wounded people and the dying people. I will show you a picture later. You will see more. The land started to burn, and most of the people jumped into the rivers. Soon, rivers were full of those dead people, dying people here, like that.Then, when low tide time from upstream to downstream, and dying people, dead people—people still alive—they were floating from upstream to downstream. Then again from the sea and a couple of days later, dead bodies came up again. Such awful scenes we had to see. Through my experience – I am sorry. I was 8 years old. I need to tell about myself. So those days, what we learned was—anyway, even the one place the bomb would be dropped, and then we ran. We rushed to other places that will be safe, we thought.
We moved around, we thought, but actually there was the single bomb and soon after the bomb everything started to burn. But there were two kinds, through my experience, of burning. First, the initial flash. We Japanese say in Hiroshima dialect, “Pikadon.” “Pika” is the “flash.” “Don” is the sound and the blast. Pikadon. People say, “My husband died because of pikadon.” They say. Pika, that is a flash, a strong flash. And then, by the strong flash, flammable things, like people’s clothes, were some attached, loose, such kind of thing, started to burn. Even though, so far away where I was, there was a barn, and then it started to burn from the initial flash.
But the center part of the city and the flash, and soon there was a strong blast. The blast was so strong. My experience: first, there was a strong flash. And then, soon after, there was a blast. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stand, of course. It was so strong, like I was in the midst of a typhoon or a tornado. I was hit on the road. I was on the road. Then, at the center of the city, everything would crash down immediately. First, some buildings, something were burning, but all the buildings were crashed down. Soon after that, fire probably started. It’s not the same here—maybe five minutes later there and so on—and it spread. So initial flash, center part, people were burned, initial flash. And then, blast and then, secondly, fire spread. I remember all night the city kept on burning, and of course, people did not know what happened.You see Hiroshima city is so small here, but in such a huge area, actually more than that, so-called black rain fell. That I have experienced. I couldn’t understand what’s this, you know, charcoal color, and dark-colored rain fell. Maybe, people might think only [people] who were in the city were contaminated, but actually not. It’s a huge area radiation was spread, scattered.
Those are four categories of survivors. Number one—I am belonging to number one—who were in the city. Number two, this is very difficult, made a big confusion, because we did not know that the city was full of radiation. People, of course, entered the city. Especially those days, high school students [00:12:00] were mobilized in the work, and many died. For instance, at my brother’s school. He was second year, but the first-year students were on that day on the road. All of them died and didn’t return. Because of that, many, many relatives, parents, entered the city. They walked and walked up to how many hours they were. There were some cases that students had severe burns, but were taken away and brought to the suburbs. And then, at first, they could not say—and they were almost dying—their names and so on. But a couple of days later, a week later, finally, they could say, “I’m from nani nani [literally: what what; figuratively: so-and-so]. My name is so and so.” And then, finally, a week later or two weeks later, they returned home.
But their parents, they did not know that they could by themselves return. So because of that, they were staying in the city, a dangerous area. And then they became sick. They did not know why it happened. There were some cases—parents outside of the city later coming in and then they died earlier than their children who were in the city. Such cases [there] were.
What we want to say about the radiation, of course, there were so many cases people were wounded, but about the radiation, we did not know. We said, “Somebody entered the city and then they were sick. What’s that?” We thought that was a kind of poison gas or so. And about radiation, we did not know and entered. But children are weaker than adults. There were some examples. My friend, and she entered the city with her younger brother—and only once a couple of days later—and walked to the south end to meet their grandmother and returned. Only once. But they had severe sickness. And then the younger one died, her brother died. It happened.
We were horrified about why. People who did not have any scars and burns all of a sudden died. My relatives, very near relatives. In her case—she is my sister-in-law, though. Her grandmother covered [her] on the pika, you know, the first flash, on her granddaughter. Grandmother had severe burns and died the next day. But underneath of her grandmother, and then her sister, she didn’t have any scars nor burns and then returned home. But showed typical radiation disease. That made them, the family, horrified, gums bleeding and had a high fever. But the worst one was losing her hair, you see. My sister-in-law couldn’t forget the crying and the shouting, and her sister was shouting, “Get me a mirror. Get me a mirror. I want to see myself without hair.” And she died within two weeks. So, that’s number two.
Number three, soon after that in the city, there were around 60,000 dead bodies. So we needed to cremate them. My father, even though he was 2.24 kilometers, about 1.5 miles, away, he had to cremate the bodies every day, over 700, in a park near my house. This area, such a small area. So that’s number three. The people who entered and worked for the clean-up program.
Number four, this is very important for the future generations and the young people, mothers who were pregnant at that time in the city, like three months or four months. Such pregnant women delivered babies next year, but among them, some children whose heads were small and had a handicap. Such babies were born, and because of that, the rumor that it’s better not to get married—young people who were in the city—that spread. Even though I was eight years old, among my classmates, we stopped talking about those days and we did not want to tell that we were in the city. I didn’t care so much, but ten years later, when I was grown up, like 18 to 20, a young man outside entered the city. [He] came and first asked me, “Keiko, where were you?”
I was shocked, you know. “Why do you ask me such a question?”
He said, “No, no, no, I’m okay. I’m okay. I don’t care, but my parents care.” I know my friends, among my friends, because they were in the city, and then because of that, their wedding was canceled. And they couldn’t get married to their fiancé. I know those people. Because of that, category four, that’s the worst. This is myself. I was like that, 8 years old.
OK. [In] those days, [it was an] interesting city. You see this is Hiroshima Station and in front of Hiroshima Station, you see the hill with the stupa. The other side of the hill, I was here. And you see there is Shinto shrine gate, torii gate. In those days before the bombing, we were taught, in case something happened, go to the Shinto shrine. The shrine or temple or school. Those places will be the first aid station. Because of that, to my area many people rushed. Even though such a place, you see, many people rushed to come here. This is my elementary school. And this is, there was a small park where my father cremated every day over 700 victims. That means every day, Father was exhausted when he returned home. And everywhere, the town itself, had a very bad smell and reached my house.
But anyway, there is the river. Soon the river was full of wounded people jumping into the river, because the fire chased them. Those wounded people, and you know, the fire reached, finally, around this time. Not only one place, but there were so many places people started to cremate because everywhere, here, around here, full of dead bodies. People came and lived here, but such a faraway place, many people rushed. I couldn’t help but see people dying every day in front of me.
That was awful, but before the bombing, already, I had a very fearful experience. Here, this is myself. Always children when they go to school, they had to have anti-air-raid food made of cloth inside cotton and holding that. As soon as the air raid warning, so often we heard. That was a siren, wooo, something like that. Teacher said, “Okay, go back, run back, and jump into your shelter.”
I had to go back wearing that – and food. That was a very fearful day, moment, for me. Always I was crying because I had experienced. Maybe other children, too. When we were in a shelter, I heard a tremendously big gun shooting sound, da da da da da, like that. I was scared but, after that, I started to see my house from the shelter. Part of my house was burning. That moment, I learned that “Oh, from the airplane, I might be shot,” you know, because of that. This is my daily life, and the fear against airplanes stayed so long. It’s a kind of trauma.
I forgot, but almost 60 years later, I visited Washington, D.C. because Enola Gay, the bomber, B-29, was unveiled. I had to work as an interpreter for other survivors. Then I went to the Smithsonian where the aircraft used during the World War II [is displayed]. I stepped in and I saw the line of small airplanes, Grumman and Lucky Dog and so on. Of course, Enola Gay, the bomber was huge, but I was scared more than that B-29. Smaller airplanes time to time appeared and shot, you see.
And the next city was Kure city. Kure is the marine base. The Naval Academy was [there]. Because of that, many times, they would attack and [I] heard da da da, like that. Because of that, I step in. I recalled all this. I started to cry. I did not know why I started to cry. So I couldn’t help [it]. I was so scared and crying on the corner of that museum.
The media people rushed. “Oh, Keiko was crying,” you see. And then they made a film. When I was in Washington, D.C., in Japan, there was nationwide nine o’clock evening news, and there I was crying with fear, just seeing airplane. At that time, I thought, “Children shouldn’t be involved in any kind of killing or war.”
At that time, my son [was] living in Tokyo, and my brother and sister, they did not want to tell, “I was in the city.” Something like that, you see. Kept it secret. My son was watching me with his friend, and the friend said, “Oh, that’s your mother. That means you are a survivor’s son. Are you okay?” You know, “Is there something wrong?”
That’s the tendency, so my brothers gave me a phone call. “Why were you on the TV program? I was scared, because my wife’s parents will worry about, ‘Oh, my daughter got married to a survivor.’” Like that. Our fear lasted so many years, and I myself was like that. Flashbacks occurred. I didn’t think.
Because of that, I was always worrying about it. Through radio, students were learning, “This sound means B-29. This sound is so and so, you see.” And then, when a B-29 appeared, students could understand, “Oh, that’s a B-29,” because they learned it.
On that day, in the morning, my brother left already to go to the center of the city and to work – high school students. Then, I was about to leave when my father said, “Stop. Today, something might happen.” I didn’t go to school because of that. I was so lucky and, moreover, I was behind a big warehouse, old-style. I was okay.
But my brother, he was looking up at the sky, and there was a B-29. All students know, “Oh, that’s a B-29,” looking up. He could see something was released from the airplane. “What’s that?”
He was expecting dropping down straight, that small thing, but it made a curve. And he thought, “Oh, that’s a curve I learned in physics class.” He thought so. There was a certain moment, but he tried to chase the airplane and turned back. At that time, the bomb exploded in the air.
All of the students and the citizens were beaten on the ground. He was in the potato field and pulling weeds. And then, all the students were unconscious. When he opened his eyes, he saw that he had burns on his face. He was looking up and covering his—he had burns on his hand and face. And he saw many people were coming to the station. Many, many wounded people were coming. So he decided to climb up the hill and then go to other side.
And then, myself, I was beaten by the blast and then hit on the road. When I opened my eyes, everywhere was just dark with the soot and the sand and everything. But I saw only a barn, only one barn, was burning. I couldn’t understand why. Because of a thatched roof, because of that. The initial flash – that cottage was burning. While I was staying in the darkness, I returned home and saw all my houses were partially broken, and glass stuck on the wall everywhere. And then I stepped out. Black rain—the so-called “black rain”—started. I couldn’t understand. Dripping something. “Oh, what’s this?” You know, that’s black rain.
My brother, the previous day, he was working on the road. But he was lucky. The next day, he was behind Hiroshima Station and he could survive. But half of his class, younger ones, over 300, were working. No one could return. All the students died. You see some white areas here and here. Students were mobilized and breaking houses to make a fire break. Flammable houses. And then, this road, this is the Peace Boulevard. Most of the students were working there. That means around 60 to 70 percent of students died in the city, because there was no shelter.
And then, here, there was [inaudible], and Hiroshima Castle was here. Around here, there was a military headquarters. There was a bunker. In the bunker, fifteen years old, thirty girls were working with the soldiers. With the commander, with a receiver, gathering information. The commander released air-raid warnings, you know. So they were helping the commander.
They were there, but airplanes came so many times during the night. And that was the fifth of August. I have experienced that around midnight, all of a sudden there was an airplane. There was an air-raid warning. We rushed to the shelter. Waited, nothing happened. “Why?” we said. Again, we tried to sleep. And then another one. So very unusual.
And the students were 24 hours working. 15-year-old girls. And this is the bunker. So students, at one time 30 fifteen-year-old students were working. But outside, another thirty students were waiting. They were thinking to start work from eight o’clock. They were outside. All of them died. But my friend was an operator in the bunker, so she could survive, and she told me precisely that night what happened.
My brother was looking at the sky and saw the B-29, as I told you. This is Hiroshima Station. Towards Hiroshima Station, many people came, and then this is the hill. He was working. This is Hiroshima Station. There was a military parade ground, one of the parade ground areas. There was a potato field. He was working. He decided to climb up the hill and go back, go down the other side, where I lived there. From top of the hill, he saw the whole city, the gigantic cloud. Underneath, the city was burning. He was shouting, “Mom, Mom!” He was shouting and coming back.
My mother said, “Oh, you are a lucky boy. We had a bomb.” Everybody thought that we had a bomb on us, the target was our area. “Our area was the target,” my mother said.
He came home and said, “No, the whole city is burning.” Why, we didn’t see 100 airplanes to destroy the whole city. We must have seen 100 bombing. We couldn’t understand why. And then my brother told me there was a single bomb. “I saw, and the city started to burn and [was] destroyed. And then the city was full of wounded people. They were coming to my area,” my brother said. I was scared. Then I went out. This is actually my area. I lived around here this way and this way.
Both sides, people were coming. I saw a person and a line, a big line, of wounded people coming. Goal is the shrine. They believed there must be a doctor. No, there was only one soldier with a tin bucket with oil. That’s all. Applied oil. And then people came. Soon, everywhere so many people rushed, both sides, you know, to the shrine. Full of wounded people.
And my father – many people died, so he had to cremate them. He was the leader of that. Because he was in my house. So many pieces of glass, but only that moment he was behind the big pine tree and he was not hurt. But the other side of the pine tree. The tree was burned, but he was safe.
But what made me horrified was—when many people rushed to my area, somebody seized my leg, my ankle, and said, “Give me water.” I ran back and got water from the well and then delivered [it]. Most of the people were happy. But among them two persons – all of a sudden, as soon as drinking water from me, two persons died.
Since then, I was so scared I killed them. And so many years, I had a hard time, made it secret, because my father asked the children, “You didn’t give water, did you?”
My brother said, “Everybody knows we shouldn’t give water.” That was a kind of a lesson most of the people know, that if you give water, people might die. It’s a rumor or something like that, but actually many people died [from] drinking water. I did not know that, and my brother said, “I know that. I didn’t.”
But I said, “I was stupid and so and so.” And the city was like this.
The next day, I climbed uphill. The stone steps, people were dying in the morning. They were moving, still alive. Afternoon [they] stopped [to] move. In the evening, they died. They were dead. I asked, “Hey, this person is dead?” And then, somebody came and brought that body to the park, where my father was cremating. This is the scene I saw every day. Lines of smoke were coming out. And then, this big one, my father, cremating near my house. The other brother, he did evacuation. Children evacuated to the temple, and many children lost their family and became orphans. Hiroshima City was like this.
Such a devastated city. Over 2,000 orphans returned home and they had a hard time. Of course, there was not an orphanage. I saw many street children, running about and living in the broken buildings for many, many months. I know that they were gathering and smoked cigarettes, and making handmade cigarettes and selling them. Because some of the gangsters, you know, those people entered soon and let them work. Such kind of thing – part of thing. And it’s not told. People stopped talking.
I saw many people who had burned on the street [and] tried to hide. To get a job was difficult. Moreover, there were no cops and no houses. Somebody who couldn’t get out of the city, they built a small cottage, but no baths. First, the city made public baths, but they were discriminated [against] because they had the scars. One of my friends, my close friend, she couldn’t take a bath during two years. Oh, it’s awful. Because she lived by herself [in a] handmade house. There was no bathroom, you see, to take a bath. It happened.
In spite of that, the people started to rebuild. This year, four years later, we got a budget from the government. And then, 12 years later, seems a little bit settled down. You see the kiosks and small shops and the sign of the doctors and the parade or something.
Okay, rapidly I told my story. But maybe you could feel [it] through my 8-year-old eyes. Thank you so much. Okay.
Cindy Kelly: The artwork you showed is students’ art today, people in high schools are working with survivors?
Kelly: Tell us about that.
Ogura: Yes. I went to the school yesterday but stayed almost three hours telling precisely, because they cannot imagine what kind of clothes we were wearing, and you know. They painted a beautiful, cute girl with long eyelashes. “No, I was not so cute,” I said. Yes, so like that.
But that’s a very good education. How to hand our story down to the future is what we need to know and [we are] endeavoring to do that, I think. I, myself, like others, I didn’t tell about my story for 50 years. Because we just, you know, sealed our feelings. We did not, I did not, tell my story, because always we have a dilemma whether to tell our story or not. Recently, people started to tell after 70 years, after 60 years. My classmate, for the first time, we talked about the atomic bombing, what we saw, 70 years later when the former President [Barack] Obama came. And then we said, “Before we die, we have to tell something.”
One of my classmates, who was watching the airplane, she was gazing at it, and she said she lost sight in one eye and she showed me her burn scars. I said, “I didn’t go to school that day.”
And then they blamed me. “We had a hard time. Why didn’t you come to school?” they said.
That’s thanks to my father. His inspiration, “You shouldn’t go to school today.” But anyway.
My husband [Kaoru Ogura] was the director of the [Hiroshima Peace Memorial] Museum. That was my husband’s work to tell about it. I didn’t tell my story. My husband was writing [a] Peace Declaration, and he passed. He had a stroke and died. But the world wants to know what happened. So they rushed to Hiroshima. My husband was a keeper, and he was an official interpreter between the UN and the mayor and so and so.
Then, I started. Over 30 years, I saw many, many different survivors who had different situations, different sadness. Especially, I found, in the lonely, aged survivors. First, they were so-called in a “home” but they couldn’t – they had been blaming themselves. “Why couldn’t I help my children?” I will show you some of the pictures. That, for instance.
First, they were caught under the crushed buildings. Then, secondary fire came, reached [them]. [People] tried to pull them out, but couldn’t, because the fire reached. First, the buildings were crushed down, and then they were caught. They were still alive. And the survivors cannot forget that last moment. We saw many desperate faces like this, you know. We couldn’t help but watch, you see. Like this. This stayed so long time deep in our hearts, especially somebody who had their family caught under the crushed down building.
They blamed themselves. “I survived. Why I myself?” They thought. Early days, many did suicide, I heard, in their homes, lonely. “There is no meaning to survive,” they thought. But by and by, survivors thought, “No, there must be a meaning to survive.” That is to tell our story. This is what we can do to tell our story to the younger generations. Because we were in hell, but we do not want [that] those younger children or young people will see such disaster and experience. Because of that. Every day, we see people, young people, coming to the city. They are like our vitamin or remedy to cure our sadness, because we feel like, “Before I died, I could tell my story to those young people.” Then, finally, we found telling our story is the best way to cure our heart.
My nightmares stopped, you see. So many years, more than ten years, I saw nightmares, but for the first time, I told my story to other people, and then the nightmares stopped. Before I finish, there are so many people. Americans came. I believe in American citizens, you see. We were so happy [that] American citizens and American people sent canned food and used clothes. I was so happy to wear all the clothes from America, you see. Some girls who had scars were sent to America and stayed one year with American families. At first, they hated Americans, but their hearts were cured. They had plastic surgery with their helps. Some of the orphans – Norman Cousins, an American journalist, asked Americans to become spiritual parents and send cards and so on. I know that there was so many different types of and help from American citizens, yes.
Kelly: You had friends who actually gone to the United States for the plastic surgery?
Ogura: Yes, yes. My friend, she had plastic surgery over 30 times. Even though many times she did, she said, “This is not my face, former face.” You know, just only she can move her finger, and plastic surgery makes the fingers apart like that. At first, she told me when she saw American soldiers, her mother threw stones. “Devil, go away!” You know, like that. My friend became unconscious because of fear, you see. But later, she went to America and stayed with an American family. She said, “Papa and Mama,” and like that, too. Yes, so understanding and help at the citizens’ level, that’s important.
But I want American students to learn about radiation. I don’t know how to explain. Radiation is quite different. Before I delivered my baby until the last moment, I was so scared, you know. Everybody had a hard time. “My baby, my child, is he okay or not?” always mothers are thinking. [With] nuclear weapons stays future fear. Not all casualties are burned or have scars. No, fear. Yes, fear, so deep in our hearts. Everybody had fear.
Kelly: When you mentioned that when you got to be 18 or 20 and were a marriageable age, did you keep a secret that you had been in Hiroshima or no?
Ogura: We did not talk, because my classmates never talked. But when I was asked, “I was in the city.”
“Oh,” he said. He was a little bit scared. “I’m okay. I don’t care, but my mother will worry,” like that. Their parents, their relatives. I know classmates who canceled their wedding because of that. Incredible, but still now, everybody is so suspicious because of that. My brother and sister, they don’t tell. Not in Hiroshima, but outside of Hiroshima. People are so suspicious. People there, but we have to tell what we have experienced, I think. But like you, influential person from America, is very important. This is a great chance. Thank you for coming.
Kelly: Well, thank you for your story. That was marvelous, such a beautiful job. You are a wonderful ambassador.
Ogura: Thank you.
Kelly: For all of your people, everyone, and it’s so important to have the story told in such personal terms and with such understanding. People can relate very easily to your experiences.
Kelly: I think that is very powerful. That will teach many, many people your story. It’s a great one to share, as I am sure others’. But as you say, many of your contemporaries who had similar experiences were too afraid to talk.
Ogura: Yeah, and nowadays people want to talk more and more. “Before I die,” they say. “If I die and go to heaven or hell – I don’t know – then my daughter, for instance, passed, who I couldn’t help, may blame me. ‘Mother, what did you do that I died, you know, in the flames, but you survived. What did you do?’ I might be asked by my child. Before I go, at least, I have to do something to try to write and draw pictures and tell their story. I could survive but I did so-and-so peace activity.” They want to say that. Yeah, because of that.
I am 81 years old. I don’t know whether I can live or survive or not another ten years, but this is what I can do.
By the way, this is a certificate, you know, like this. Small health book. The pink color showing this we have aid from the government to pay the medical fee.
Kelly: Oh, that’s good.
Ogura: This is good, but you can imagine, maybe, that not all people want to say that I want to have a certificate. First, parents waited until their daughters get married, you see, and they deliver a healthy baby. And then, after that, I am a survivor. I need this. This is economical, very useful. But you know, always, such a long time, people wondered and had fear whether to tell or not, see.
Kelly: Yes. Well, you made the right decision.
Ogura: Thank you.
Kelly: For us, as the recipients of your story. I also was struck by when you said after you began to tell your story, your nightmares stopped.
Kelly: I wonder how many people – you suffered really from post-traumatic stress syndrome. We now talk about that for Vietnam veterans who survived horrific experiences then.
Ogura: Yes. I think they have, and they have dreams and recall those days, especially children. Can you imagine almost 60 years later, I started to cry? Didn’t work at all, because “Oh, airplanes, I am so scared” and started to cry. It happened. I, myself, was surprised why I was like that. I feel like children all over the world still have a strong fear without telling others. For instance, you know, all skin was peeling off. Some of my friends cannot eat sautéed [food] and sausage, exactly like that. Immediately connected like that. That’s the kind of trauma they have. But they do not tell.
Among my family, I am the only person to tell. I think I am going to tell my story, and then my sister-in-law said, “Don’t tell about myself.” Or “I cannot tell.” Yes, I cannot tell about those days with my sister-in-law. All of a sudden she was like crazy, you know, in her house. Grandmother died, and her classmates died. Her sister. Like that, everybody is still – and they have severe scars. I think so.
Kelly: Oh, yes. Wow. It’s remarkable, yes. Well, you seem to have accomplished so much to have the strength to kind of work through this. You know, you are such an amazing model for others to be inspired.
Ogura: Mothers cannot—parents do not want to tell their story. Why? In Japan, you know, most of children learn from grandmothers, grandparents. Mothers directly cannot tell. I met many who couldn’t tell to their children, because nuclear weapons have such characteristics, you know. Planned fear, give fear. I couldn’t tell to my children what I have experienced so many years.
Kelly: When they were young, you couldn’t tell them?
Ogura: No. And when I told them, “Am I okay? How about our future?” Like that.
Kelly: Yes, sure.
Ogura: Because of that.
Kelly: Did your mother tell your children? Was she alive to tell your children when they were growing up or not?
Kelly: She did not tell them?
Ogura: Most of the parents do not want to tell, because it gives them fear, you know, for the future.
Ogura: Like Sadako [Sasaki]. Ten years later, a girl who folded paper cranes dies.
Ogura: Sadako is only an example. I met many children who died around 10. So many, not only Sadako. So many children died. Because of that, that was a kind of shocking event. Because ten years later, “How many years we have to wait?” we thought, you know. I met Sadako’s brother and mother.