Posted by: marthacoolcat | December 22, 2008

“How do you go on after something like that?”

It was really good to meet Kasaoka-san, the A-bomb survivor. There was supposed to be two of us hearing her story, but Matt was late and kind of ill out of it getting into town with an injury, and he never made it. So I had her to myself, which was cool, but not so great because the number of people coming to Hiroshima every year, for the Aug 6 memorial has been going down every year. That’s concerning, especially when the new PR campaign for nuclear is a “green” energy. The survivors are very clear about their stance on nuclear issues.

Sometimes learning about awful things or watching movies with violence and pain in them, I note that I don’t have as strong of a reaction as I might have. It sounds awful to say, but it’s that way. Like I can’t retain the full humanity and the loss of one more body. Something has to twinge or tweak to remind me what I am taking in. One of those moments was when A man dying a horrible, painful death mustered the strength to take the saddle and bridal off of his dying horse. What well do you draw upon to be tender while dying? Did I already tell you about this? It was in one of the drawings by survivors. I never thought about the animals dying. People must have had pets. How could a cat ever comprehend what was happening to her? to her kittens?

Look at this. Some dead cats does not a world tragedy make. Maybe I catch my heart’s breath at dying animals because it is a digestible chunk. Like trying to imagine the difference between 1 000 000 degrees Celsius and 4 000 degrees Celsius. I couldn’t handle the 93 degree hot sauna at the bath, so — numbers like that I can’t wrap my head around, let alone numbers of decimated people. A heaving, wild eyed, mewling horse – somehow I can — maybe its that I can imagine that amount of pain with out averting my inner eye. If I imagine a sudden overwhelming heat wave, and think about how it hurt to inhale in the sauna, how water falling off my hair felt like it was burning, , and then try to magnify that, maybe I can start to understand. I know the scale is way way off, but – maybe it is like those Styrofoam balls you made for elementary school science fair models of the universe, you can only kind of start to get a notion of the scale of distance.

I can barely tell you some of the things she said. How does a teenager cremate her own father? She was telling us about trying to help him. He did manage to stumble home, unrecognisable and completely burned. He lived or two days. In a moment of tenderness, she tried to give her Dad a beer at the end, because he loved beer, but he couldn’t drink anymore. She said when she touched his skin a, sheet? of it fell off, and then she showed me something. She had a piece of large black construction paper, and she lifted off a strip, and there was red construction paper underneath. It’s pretty simple, but so visible. She could see his muscle.

I asked her about forgiveness, and about talking when others still couldn’t.

I asked her how do you go on after something like that? She shrugged, and paused. “I felt like my life had reached a bottom”. “I call it hell”. A lot of survivors called it hell.

Coincidentally I met her niece in law who was her translator before the talk in the cafeteria. Sachiko-san told me that she wants to do this kind of work because when something awful happens, she wants to learn as much about it as she can, and find out if there is one little thing that she can do, and then she does that thing. That kind of bowls me over. As I left I told her I think her aunt is a kind of hero. Kasaoka-san said she came to the point where she believed she had a responsibility to talk. (I don’t mean to sound self-satisfied, re: my reasons to come to an — unusual vacation location but) I told her I felt like I had a responsibility to learn.

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