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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

☢ 8 Year Old Keiko Survived Nuclear War - 70 Years Since Hiroshima ☢

Keiko Ogura felt the explosion of the world's first atomic bomb in her own body. She tells her story so that no one else ever should have to go through the same thing.

Keiko didn't go to school on August 6 with the other students because her father felt that something bad was about to happen that day. I was unhappy as all my classmates had gone, she recalls. She had celebrated her 8th birthday two days before.

Keiko Ogura age eight the year after Hiroshima
Keiko Ogura the year after Hiroshima
I remember everything clearly as if it had happened yesterday. I stood on the street near our house when a blinding flash suddenly appeared in the sky. I was thrown to the ground and lost consciousness, says Keiko Ogura on the phone from Hiroshima where she has lived all her life. Keiko was a second grade elementary school student, the bomb exploded at 8.15 a.m.

She does not know how long she was unconscious, but when she woke up the whole world was black and from the sky came a black rain. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand, there was debris falling on me and all over and I couldn’t hear anything.

“When I went home, it was smashed and some of it had blown up, I could see the ceiling and tiles gone and hundreds of pieces of window glass on the wall. My father was lucky. He was between the open glass doors and the pantry and he was alright. My sister and brother were bleeding from the head, but it wasn’t serious. When I stepped out, I saw black rain, what’s this I thought - it was charcoal colour and it was very sticky and I touched it,” she narrates.

National Georgraphic Channel Reenactment
National Georgraphic Channel Reenactment
There was a complete calm around. The house was 2.4 kilometers from the place where the atomic bomb was dropped. I strongly remember all the terrible smells that hovered in the air during the following days. At first there was the smell of burnt hair which was then mixed with the smell of burned bodies.

Near our home was a Shinto shrine that was made to a first aid station. Therefore it came injured people to our area and I saw hundreds of sick and dying people. They were walking like ghosts. I only saw dark figures who stretched out their arms and legs. Many people's skin was severely burned.

The family miraculously survived

Keiko saw how skin hung from human body parts and especially from the fingers. They were swollen due to radiation damage.

Some people were completely soaked in black rain and developed health complications and diseases. Some foreigners died. 25,000 including Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Americans, foreign students and around 10 American prisoners. It was one of the reasons Hiroshima was chosen - it had few prisoners at that time in the city, she says.

It was horrible

“In Ushita where I lived, each home was an air raid shelter. Usually in the mornings there is an air raid warning but on that day August 6, 1945, there was a warning but no air raid.” Strangely, the night before, Keiko says people couldn’t sleep as they kept going in and out of air raid shelters after the sirens kept blaring. B-29s appeared above Hiroshima accompanied by air raid sirens. “We went home and tried to sleep. All the time we kept wondering why no air raid despite the siren. On August 6 there was one air raid warning. We thought Hiroshima would be skipped. We had heard that Tokyo and Kobe were destroyed, maybe God decided to spare our city. That morning people didn’t worry why there was a warning and no raid,” she says.

Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945. Photo: EPA / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945. Photo: EPA / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
It was a miracle her own family got saved. No family member died that day 70 years ago when an unprecedented terror spread out over the world.

Keiko's father began working at the crematoria in which the bodies were burned. He burned hundreds of bodies the days after the atomic bomb fell.

“After the bombing, everyday someone died, they didn’t have any scars but they died, we were wondering if it was poison gas, we didn’t know then that it was radiation,” she says. Now the survivors “the hibakusha” as they are called, fall into four categories. Keiko says those who helped in cremating bodies also became sick. “Everyday I saw lines at the cemetery, of people to be buried and we wondered who would be next. One of my friend’s who was living out of the city, was exposed to radiation when she came here and fell sick and her younger brother died after a six-hour exposure in Hiroshima."

People told me that all of Hiroshima had been destroyed. Our own house was full of broken glass but the walls were still standing.

A few days after Keiko began to do short trips to the horrific battlefield.

When someone died, we said that they died of "the light"

A special memory from the day after

“There was a bad smell, their hair and flesh were burnt and they were lying down, squatting and suddenly someone grabbed my ankle, and asked for water. Till then everyone was silent but suddenly there was a cry for mizu or water. Some thanked me after I got water for them but to my horror some died. It is said that people shouldn’t be given water when in shock, but I didn’t know that as a little girl. I ran home and got it from the well. I was shocked and I thought there was some poison. My father said you shouldn’t give people water and I kept silent. Keiko thought she killed people by giving them water. She was so scared that she did not tell anyone about the water until decades later, when her father had passed away. That became my trauma. I had nightmares and I cried. It took me a long time to recover,” she explains.

Typical symptoms of radiation injuries include high fever, loss of appetite, bleeding and hair loss. Keiko had almost no symptoms at all except that she got nosebleeds.

I could not connect the bleeding with the atomic bomb until decades later, when I heard that it was common among the children who lived near the area affected by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

She also suffered from anemia, but otherwise her health has been good.

But the most fearful thing for her was that babies were born with deformities, with microcephaly or small heads. Keiko later met a girl in her forties who was like a three-year-old. She wouldn’t say anything and watched TV all day, and could recognise only the faces of movie stars. People were worried about having handicapped children.

Many children died, many were orphaned or maimed. By the end of 1945, the number of dead had risen to 140,000,” she adds.

Her brother was behind Hiroshima station working to break down houses and clear fire lanes among the debris. He and others had heard the sound of the airplane - there were three planes - but from one he saw a tiny black thing (the Americans called it Little Boy) that was released. As the planes turned, the black dot exploded and they were all thrown to the ground unconscious. “There were people lying on the ground all over and my brother’s classmate was so severely burnt that he took off his shirt and all of them had severe burns as they tried to go home. There were so many dead bodies on the road. He decided to climb up the hill and go another way to avoid the bodies. My brother said the cloud was like ice cream, and he saw the whole city destroyed. It was my brother who came and told us the whole city was burnt,” Keiko says.

We did not understand what had happened. No one spoke to us about the atomic bomb. We thought that tens or hundreds of bombs were detonated. Only much later did we realize that our city had been destroyed by the force of a single bomb.

Right after the bombing, the question was how to overcome it and not think of revenge, she says. There was nothing to eat, everyday was so hard, everyday people died. “Right after the bomb our thoughts were - how could we overcome it? What can we eat? Nothing was there. Some vegetables and rice. We caught grasshoppers or insects and ate them after cooking. Everyday was so hard and we were so afraid of dying.”

Shame joins Hiroshima and Fukushima

Many so-called "hibakushas", those who survived the atomic bomb, has for decades kept secret where they were when the bomb detonated.

We were afraid of discrimination. For example, no one wanted to marry someone who had been near the site where the bomb struck. Maybe one feared that there would be something wrong with the descendants, the now 78-year-old Keiko wonders.

Survivors are seemingly okay but get easily tired, didn’t have 100 per cent energy. We used to think survivors are lazy, they catch a cold easily, develop stomach ache, she says. “People are worried about getting married or getting jobs. The first thing I was asked by a young man from Tokyo whether I was from Hiroshima and exposed to radiation. There was denial too. Most people didn’t want to admit to being survivors, “she points out.

Keiko says she was also stunned by the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011.

The people in Fukushima have the same fate as us. People are afraid of them and they are discriminated against in Japanese society. People begin to distort the truth, telling lies about the past and keeping secrets about disabled children who are born.

Photo: Keiko Ogura
Keiko Ogura - Photo: Keiko Ogura

Because the atomic bomb have so much association with secrecy and shame, Keiko Ogura have decided to tell her own story to the world. She has devoted her life to preserving the historical memory and are grateful to all who would listen to her story.

“Survivors at first hated America, especially the President of the USA for ordering the bombing, but there was guilt too that we couldn’t save our children. There was always regret. Why did I survive many people wondered but later we felt hope when elementary school children visited us and wanted to hear our stories. For the first time, people felt hope that they had survived. There was a feeling that before we all died our stories would be told to the world,” she adds.

She tells of the shock when she heard that the United States continued it's nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean even in the 1950s. There, began her work for peace.

Among other things, Keiko founded a small group of hibakushas, the Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace, who tries to explain to the world what happened in Hiroshima 70 years ago.

So that no one should have to experience the same thing.

Keiko confessed that the people she loved most in the world were teachers and the media. “They conveyed our stories. One time I was on TV and my son’s friend said he didn’t know I was a survivor. The only time I didn’t like the media was when I went to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in 2003. I was supposed to work as an interpreter. I started to cry. I didn’t want to see the Enola Gay, the B-29 which dropped the bomb. They took pictures of me crying and everyone in Japan saw it,” she says regretfully.

That’s the dilemma of the survivors. Without staying on the story, the world wouldn’t be better but then they will be identified as survivors. Keiko, like other survivors, was afraid of the stigma but she was clear on one thing - “If we think of revenge, the world will be unhappy. This is my message.”

You may also like to read:
Newspaper 1945 - Atom Bomb Hits Japs

24 Hours After Hiroshima Documentary

Atomic Bomb Survivor Aug 6 1945 Akira Yamada

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Geiger Counters - Radiation Detection Meters - Handheld Radiation Detector

When it comes to radiation detection meters you really have a wide field of gadgets to choose from, however radiation detectors are the most common to use. First of all if you need to know what type of radiation you are looking for. There are Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation detectors. And also there is neutron emission of nuclear radiation. And all these different types of emissions have radiation detectors for a specific type of radiation that you can buy radiation detector for. Some also measure both Alpha and Beta. Others detect Alpha, Beta and Gamma. While others let you measure Beta and Gamma radiation.

What most people have use for though are Dosimeters you can buy a handheld radiation detector pretty cheap that are good addition to a survival kit. There are different kinds that you can use that will detect radiation. There are radiation badges that will tell you when radiation become high. Workers at nuclear power plants use these to inform them of how much radiation they have been exposed to. Now also children in the Fukushima prefecture have each been given a radiation badge so they know if they are exposed to radiation. Some come in the shape of a pen that you can carry in your pocket while other are made more compact so that you can attach them to your keychain. And then you have what is called a personal radiation monitor. These are also called Dosimeters and also normally called Geiger counters. Although not all use the Geiger-Muller Tube for the radiation detection some use a semiconductor instead. These and mostly the older geiger counters seen are pretty big to carry around, so they might not be best suited for a survival situation where you only need to carry the most important things. However if you have land and want to check radiation around the property and drinking water then these are the geiger counters to get because they are very well built units.

These are the once that you normally see people use. They have different units of radiation detection, because when it comes to radiation there are many standards used. some give the measurements in Rads, while other use Sieverts. Some have the maximum radiation value for the measured radioactivity quite low but they will still give you an idea of the amount of radiation in the area. With the units ranging from between background radiation 0.001 mSv/hr all the way up to 10 Sv/h. Normally a dosimeter will measure radiation in micro siverts per hour. If you were to walk into one of the reactor units at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant you probably would get an error reading from your dosimeter because the radiation levels are so high there.

Note that some places outside the exclusion zone in Fukushima that are too radioactive for people to live in have areas where the radiation levels are above 30 Sv/h. So if you are in a area that have high radiation the radiation detectors would also there go off the scale. However Geiger counters or radiation detectors are still favored as general purpose alpha/beta/gamma portable radiation detectors and radiation detection equipment, due to their low cost and robustness. Most come with an LCD Display that show you the radioactivity in the area. Nowdays you will even get alarm sound and the possibility to connect the device to a computer. Either with a Infrared, Bluetooth or USB connection.

So if you look at the radiation detectors for sale that have this, then these radiation detection meters will allow you to make maps of contaminated areas that show where the radiation is high and low. This also will help you to see which areas are becoming more contaminated over time. With several nuclear reactors in the US and around the world located near fault zones that makes it a danger if a big earthquake would hit the area there is always a good choice to have a radiation dosimeter avaliable. I'm sure many in Fukushima would have been grateful to have dosimeters avaliable at the time of the disaster and I am sure you to would be grateful to have a geiger counter handy when you need one.