Hiroshima survivor tells agonizing tale
For 66 years, Akio Inoue has believed he is living on borrowed time.
That is why, after all this time, he has decided to begin speaking publicly about surviving the atomic bomb attack that devastated Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.
Inoue was 16 when the bombing of Hiroshima took place on August 6, 1945. Nagasaki, another city in Japan, was bombed three days later. Estimates have fatalities from the Hiroshima bomb ranging anywhere from 100,000 to beyond 150,000 people.
Inoue told his story to Somerset Middle School students last Thursday. Now 82, Inoue read from a script to make sure he gave students all the vital details from his experience.
If circumstances had worked even seconds differently, Inoue would have been one of the fatalities of the atomic bomb. On that fateful morning, he was at work, but went to the hospital for treatment of a sinus infection. Moments after he entered the concrete building, the bomb struck.
Inoue woke hours later after his body had been thrown across the building by the force of the bomb. He awoke among the bodies of the dead and injured.
The hospital was less than one mile from the epicenter of the bomb's target.
As soon as he was able, Inoue left the hospital and began searching for his family. He found his mother and sister. He was never able to find his grandmother, who perished in the blast. His father and brothers were away, serving in the military.
His family's home was about one mile west of the epicenter. He found it incinerated, in rubble. His mother had a broken leg, dislocated hip and other injuries.
The next days were agonizing. As they sought treatment for their mother, they spent three weeks at a shelter in Hatsukaichi. There they watched people die daily from the effects of radiation poisoning.
He talked of the eerie jibberish the inflicted would be saying, knowing that within hours, they would be dead.
Later, he would lose his sister to the effects of radiation poisoning.
Riddled with guilt and remorse, along with his body being ravaged by the effects of radiation poisoning, Inoue said he considered suicide.
With a rare glint of emotion, Inoue seemed to admonish himself for not following through on those thoughts.
"I did not have the guts to kill myself," he said.
After he recovered, with his father's strong encouragement, he returned to school. He graduated from Hiroshima University. He became a teacher in Tokyo, including teaching at the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Officers' Candidate School.
He moved with his first wife to America, settling in Chicago. They divorced, and he later married his wife of 44 years, Mieko, during a return trip to Tokyo.
He retired in 1994 after working for 24 years at Amoco. He returned to college, earning his master's degree in literature. He and Meiko moved to White Bear Lake, Minn. in 1995 to be closer to their grandchildren.