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Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

Before my mother died, she left me with a nagging thought. She told the minister, “ Don’t let me be forgotten.” What if all my ancestors in Hiroshima had said this? What if my grandparents or their parents and their parents had said that, too? I know nothing of them until today. They have remained statistics without names or personhood, except for the surnames of both my grandfathers: Kakugawa and Takahashi. Until today, I have carelessly referred to every member of my Hiroshima family as “my ancestors who were killed in the Hiroshima bombing.”

Today, they have risen out of the shadows because of Dr. Charles Pellegrino’s newly published book, Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. My ancestors have become real people. They are children, teenagers, young adults, mothers and fathers and grandparents. They are children who went to school on an empty stomach because of war rations and of their mothers who would try to find forgiveness by leaving their special food on their children’s graveside for the rest of their lives. They all have a voice.

The story begins in Hiroshima at the first flash of the bomb and ends at Nagasaki and beyond. Approximately 300 people from the smoldering city of Hiroshima fled to safety to Nagasaki. Nagasaki was home to many of these survivors. 90% of them were killed by the second bomb. Thirty people survived the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki to become double survivors. One known survivor would experience radiation for the third time in Fukushima.

This story is told through the voices of the survivors of the bombings. Pellegrino preserves that part of history with his forensic and archeological expertise along with his poetic and masterful use of language. It is not a generic history but a very personal and humanistic one. It is not a political story, it is a story of humanity. It is not a story of blame, it is a story of forgiveness and hope for our future children.

Pellgrino had originally published a riveting book titled : Last Train From Hiroshima. After publication, more survivors sought Pellegrino to tell their stories, stories that were silenced for 70 years. Their message is clearly told…what they experienced must not happen again. What happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki must not be forgotten, ever for the sake of our children.

Each time Pellegrino brought forth the story of a child, a teenager, a mother or father, I saw them as my ancestors. Ancestors I haven’t thought of as real people.

On pages 43-44, 14 year old boy Akihiro Takahashi’s story is told with uncensored description of the people he saw that day. Pellegrino calls it the un-gloving where skin is burned away and only flesh remains. Takahashi bears many of these scars.

Twenty five years later, in Washington D.C., Takahashi met the pilot of the plane who dropped the bomb and here is part of their conversation:

Pilot Tibbets sees the scars on Takahashi’s hands. “Is this the effect of the A-bomb?”
Takahashi: “Yes, we must overcome the pain, sorrow, and hatred of the past—and {we must} work together to make sure that people never experience this gain.”

Tibbets: I understand but I would have to do the same thing, under the same circumstances; because once war breaks out. Soldiers can do nothing but follow orders.”

Takahashi said later, “Among humankind’s abilities, it is said imagination is the weakest and forgetfulness the strongest. We cannot by any means, however, forget Hiroshima, and we cannot lose the ability to abolish war. Hiroshima is not just a historical fact. It is a warning and a lesson for the future.”

My mother’s voice echoes back. I need to believe that Akihiro Takahashi was one of my ancestors. My mother’s maiden name was Takahashi.

On Page 208, Pellegrino speaks of Kiwanu who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet, a third time.

Kiwanu had chosen, as his family’s place of refuge, the pristine-appearing fields of Fukushima. On March 11, 2011, he would suddenly come to a special unity of feeling with the Kakugawa family, whose members had departed Hiroshima ahead of the war, seeking the illusory peace of a farming community in Hawaii. To the west of Kapoho Village lay beautiful Pearl Harbor/ and somewhat nearer, a scared mountain that would one day bury the entire village beneath a lake of lava.

Many of the names are familiar surnames found in our communities: Sato, Sasaki, Doi, Fujii, Yamaguchi, Nagai, Yoshioka, and many many more, but you don’t need to bear the same name or ethnic background to find meaning in Pellegrino’s words. He speaks for all humanity.

We are all familiar with Sadako and the Thousand Cranes. Sadako’s brother Masahiro asked Pellegrino to continue the legacy of his little sister who made a thousand cranes while dying from cancer.

“I think Omoiyari is the best way to start. The worst way is to call ourselves victims. To say ‘victim’ requires a victimizer, and the victimizer is led to blame; and that starts the cycle of blame…

Sadako understood this theme more personally and more intensely than most people ever will. And she had only enough time to begin teaching anew what most of us have so easily forgotten.”

The survivors who told their stories to Pellegrino are all adults but their memories are from their childhood so these stories are from the children who survived. They are not pretty stories but they are real and a part of who we are. Surely, as Pellegrino and the survivors proposed, each time we do an act of kindness, we honor and remember our ancestors by helping to create a world of peace.

Thank you, Charles Pellegrino, for helping us to not forget all those who have passed before us.
And to my mother, no, you and all those before you, will not be forgotten because there are the Charles Pellegrinos of the world who will painstakingly pick through the mountainous piles of political and historical debris to bring us the human story of all our ancestors. So we carry on this legacy of peace, forgiveness and human kindness in each of their name.

Pellegrino’s book is dedicated to Tomorrow’s Child.

1st published in Hawai’I Herald

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My good friend Takashi Tanemori invites you to his art exhibit in San Francisco:

 

Silkworm Peace/Kaiko Heiwa Institute Presents

            An Art Exhibit by Takashi T. Tanemori

                    ~A Survivor of Hiroshima~

 

“US and JAPAN: A Bridge Between Nations”

 

2014 marks the 69th Anniversary of the atomic bombings of the Japanese

cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6th and 9th, 1945. Forever

remember- Never forget. “Today we all must become honest historians. The

greatest way to avenge your enemy is by Learning to Forgive”.

-Sadao and Takashi Tanemori

 

August 6th OPENING on Hiroshima Day,

Meet and Greet the Artist, 6-9pm

 

August 9th on Nagasaki Day,

Film Screening and Q&A with Artist, 1-5pm

 

August 24th Artist’s RECEPTION

and book signing, 1200 to 2:00 p.m.

 

Artist’s book is available at the website $29.95 (special event price $25)

“Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness” by Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori and John Crump

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

CONTACT

 

Elizabeth Weinberg, Emissary Takashi T. Tanemori, Founder

エリザベス ワインバーグ 胤森 貴士 トーマス

Kaiko.heiwa@yahoo.com Silkwormpi-usa@sbcglobal.net

 

Visit the website: http://www.hiroshima-forgiveness-tanemori.com

 

EVENT LOCATION:

The Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin St.@ Geary, San Francisco, CA

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial

A candle is lit

For my ancestors

Sixty-six years ago today.





Fountain of Peace, Nagasaki

A second candle

For Nagasaki

August 8, 1945

 



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The following emails exchanged between Charles Pellegrino and myself are posted here to update you on the latest on The Last Train From Hiroshima. The new edition of the book will be published in four foreign countries as of this writing.

Dr. Charlie,

I’m still in Hawaii, had a successful lecture tour and have lost my voice so will return to Sacramento on Tuesday, a quiet person.
Hawaii tends to isolate you from all the ills of the world. Let me hear some good news from you.
Do check my newest blog and maybe it’ll entice to you to think of Hawaii someday to escape from it all.
I’m anxious to know how the foreign printing is going ….
Thinking of you,
frances



Dear Frances:

One of my mentors on my first book (Darwin’s Universe, the book that got me in all that trouble in New Zealand almost thirty years ago) – was Clair Edwin Folsome, one of the people who invented the field of astrobiology, at the University of Hawaii.  And of course, a word that got this family through my work in the ruins of the World Trade Center came from Hawaii – Ohana. There is a second word I hope my children will also strive to live by: Omoiyari.

Tuesday I am on my way to Japan, on special invite. I will be meeting with Steven Leeper ( Dir of Hiroshima Peace Movement)  and several other new friends, and a few old ones. I am, for the first time, attending both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki ceremonies (and I fear I will not be able to keep my eyes dry in either place).

The second edition of the book, with the new story arcs and with the bomber crew perspective on the Hiroshima mission complete, is the version that will go out as all foreign editions.
While in Japan, I will be meeting with more survivors – to whom the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings is of extreme importance, and some are now telling their stories for the first time. Aware that there are biological time-bombs ticking away in the tissues of many of the exposed, they want to get their warnings to the future out because they are not sure they will be around for the 70th anniversary.

So, this week, I begin work on the third edition of a book that is only seven months old. This will be the next English edition – if, in fact, one is allowed. I have heard through a colleague from one of the crewmen on the Hiroshima mission, who has read the first edition, and who is – aside from my error about the Necessary Evil’s flight engineer and a bit of false testimony – approving of how I wrote about the crews and the cities, and agrees with the message that we must use the past as best we can, to teach us that these weapons must never be used – ever again, for any reason.

Omoiyari, Nyokodo, Ohana,

– – Charlie Pellegrino

Dr. Charlie,

Please burn an incense or burn a candle for my Hiroshima ancestors when you are there. I believe all the spirits will embrace you and will end the journey of grief and all will be well hereafter. I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking of you in Hiroshima. Karma, my dear Dr. Charlie. good Karma.


from the land of Ohana, take good care. frances

Dear Frances:

I will burn incense. Are there names of family members that you want written on a floating lantern or spoken.

In Nagasaki the name I will carry with me is Eiko, who is only a very short part of my book, and whose story – a child so badly burned that her mother ran away and abandoned her – that I looked up with tears when I read it in Dr. Nagai’s “We of Nagasaki” and told my oldest daughter I’d just come across something so horrible that I could never put it in a book. Ashley was 14, and she told me that Eiko’s story perhaps more than any other told of the horror of the bomb, and said, “Dad, you must put it in your book.” The children get it more than the adults. They are in many ways smarter, as Masahiro Sasaki has observed, and as I am still learning.

Today, Dr. Nagai’s grandsonson does not know where Eiko’s grave is and does not think anyone knows. He has said he is almost completely unfamiliar with her story, and evidently it was only very rarely spoken about. Certainly, he did not want to talk about it – – another example of the cracks that the atomic bomb makes in the human spirit.

See you later,
– – Charlie P.

Dr. Charlie, if you could say both my parents surnames. Takahashi and Kakugawa, that would be a blessing. Thank you. With Ashley in our next generation, my hope is renewed for the future.Have a safe and beautiful trip.


frances


Dear Frances:

I sent your ancestors’ names out on a floating lantern last night, near the Hiroshima Dome while Yuji Sasaki (Sadako’s nephew) sang his prayer Inori  (now a very popular song here in Japan).  The morning ceremony was not what I expected. As the ringing of the bell approached I was anticipating solemn music from the orchestra; but instead it was a continually and ominously building tone that conveyed the approach of something horrible (they chose music directly reminiscent of Godzilla’s approach to Tokyo, in the original B&W film) – and one of the main images it conveyed for me was the three planes closing in from the west, as the clock ticked down toward 8:15 AM –  and then,  the long seconds of silence as the bomb fell, followed finally by children ringing that huge bell. I knew the names of too many people, and the distances they had been from me, and in which directions, 65 years ago to the moment. One of the most emotionally exhausting moments imaginable.

We must, all of us, do whatever little we can to make sure the world never sees another hypocenter.

None of this has been about the past and who did what to whom, all those years ago. It’s about a future that must be avoided, if we are to have any chance of building a world for tomorrow’s child that is worth having.

Omoiyari,
– – Charlie P.Dear Frances.

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