Atsuki Mori, a nurse, gave this talk Aug. 7 at “Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki: Never Again!” The event took place at the entry road to the KC National Security Campus, which makes or procures 85 percent of the non-nuclear parts for the US nuclear arsenal.
My name is Atsuki Mori; I live in Warrensburg, MO. I came to the United States in 2001 from Osaka, Japan. Hiroshima is approximately a 4-hour drive from Osaka. But I have only visited Hiroshima four times in my life.
Today, I would like to share my grandmother’s story. First, I need to talk about her. She was born in 1915 when the whole world was chaotic. She was a physician, which was very unusual for a Japanese woman back then. She worked in an underserved working-class community. She was a very courageous woman. During World War II, there were many air raids where my grandmother lived. When she heard the siren, she went to the rooftop wearing a doctor’s coat and waved her hands while holding a stethoscope. She saw a pilot of a B-29 bomber salute before he flew away. She was an incredibly strong woman, and at the same time, she was very patient and kept her feelings to herself.
I lived with her for 14 years, until two months before her death, but I saw her tears only twice. That was when she lost her best friend from medical school and when we visited Hiroshima. When I was young, probably 6 or 7, she took me to Hiroshima. We went to Hiroshima Peace Memorial. They had booths where you could listen to recorded stories of survivors. My grandmother was listening to one of them, and I saw tears on her cheeks. She was quietly crying. I felt like I saw something I shouldn’t see. She didn’t talk about her life much, so we learned about her after her passing away. She had a fiancé, Dr. Ueki, who was also a physician, but he died from tuberculosis before the bombing of Hiroshima. She had visited him often and got to know many people there. Even after her fiance’s death, she kept a close relationship with his older brother. When we went to Hiroshima, we also visited my grandmother’s good friend (her fiance’s brother) and his family. My grandmother’s friend had a son with a scar on his eye. I felt I shouldn’t mention it, so I didn’t ask. Later, I learned that he had lost his eye because of an atomic bomb.
In 2018, I joined the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance, hosted by PeaceWorks KC. After I shared a story of my grandmother and her late fiancé, mostly based on an assumption, I wanted to know the facts. So I decided to search for Dr. Ueki’s nephew. Even though the only clues I had were the last name and scarred eye, I was hopeful. So I entered keywords in the search engine, and soon I found an older man with a scarred eye named Kensuke Ueki. Japanese people are very private, so it is hard to get personal information on the Internet, but somehow, I found his home phone number. So I thought to give it a shot. A woman answered the phone and said it was the Ueki residence. I asked her if she knew Atsuki Mori (me), and she did. I was able to talk to Dr. Ueki’s nephew, also a Dr. Ueki, and was able to fill in the missing pieces in my grandmother’s story. Dr. Ueki is a retired English professor at Hiroshima University and is in charge of a mandatory course about peace for 2,600 first-year college students at Hiroshima University. He also gives speeches at local schools. He is an active advocate for abolishing nuclear weapons and went to Oslo, Norway when ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 (ICAN is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, to which PeaceWorks belongs).
Dr. Ueki also shared his personal experience with me. He was less than a year old when the atomic bomb was dropped. He and his mother were in the kitchen when a strong explosion shattered the glass window. His mother covered him immediately, but she couldn’t protect his left eye. As a result, he lost his left eye. He grew up learning about how horrible it was after the atomic bomb was dropped. He heard stories of people who had severe burns all over their body and walked around trying to keep their skin from sliding off. So naturally, he was traumatized and got sick every year when Aug. 6 was near. He never visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial until he was 50. It took him 50 years to be able to talk about what the atomic bomb did to Hiroshima. Still, many people are hesitant to talk about what happened on Aug. 6, 1945. Eventually, most members of the old generation died without sharing their stories. Some people realized that someone had to share their stories with the younger generation so we don’t forget the horror of the atomic bomb. Dr. Ueke is one of them. My grandmother’s tears were for him, his family, all her friends, and the city of Hiroshima.
I shared about the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance event with him. At the end of our phone conversation, Dr. Ueke said, “There are Americans who know the truth about the atomic bomb, and that gives me hope for abolishing nuclear weapons.”
After 40 years, my memory and one photo of him on the Internet reconnected us. I feel that sharing his message here in the United States is now my job. So on behalf of Dr. Ueki, I thank all Americans for seeking the truth about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and understanding the real danger of nuclear weapons. The only place they can exist is in history books.