|A Brush with Death
By Datuk Haji Abdul Razak bin Abdul Hamid, SSA, AMN, ORS
The 6th of August 1945, 8.15 am, remains an unforgetable moment for as long as I live. It marked the day when Hiroshima was basked by the sun while its inhabitants busied themselves with their everyday routines. I was then a student at Hiroshima Bunri Daigaku equally busy attending a mathematics lecture given by Professor Kiyoshi Toda held at the Music Building. The lecture was conducted on the lower floor of this two-storey wooden structure.
On the same day, Hiroshima, rarely `visited' by enemy planes, was suddenly filled with the sound of siren, warning that intruders were amidst the sky. As usual my coursemate, Pengiran Yusof of Brunei, and I accompanied by our Professor proceeded to the air-raid shelter nearby.
It was barely a moment passed in the darkened shelter that another siren was overheard, indicating that the sky of Hiroshima was once again clear; the intruders left without much incident. We hurried back to the class anxious to continue with the interrupted schedule.
Just as soon as Toda Sensei recollected himself to begin his lecture again, in a flash was a lightning rushing across the width of the class room windows, followed almost instantaneous by a thunderous noise echoed into the room. I could only remember yelling, "Yusof!... lightning!!!, after which everything else just escaped my mind. It was not until later, that I became aware of my wherebeing - buried under heaps of dust and splinters that were once part of the Music Building which was wrecked by a bomb explosion. I felt blood trickling from my head, but remained composed and concerned for Yusof and my sensei. I kept calling out for him, eager to know their welfare, at the same time indirectly telling them that I am safe.
From what was left of the Music Building, I could vaguely see a beam of light shining through from outside, as though showing me the way out of the darkness surrounding me. Slowly but surely I crawled towards the light source. Eventually I emerged from the rabbles quite shocked to see my blood-soaked clothing due to my head injuries. Shortly, Yusof and Toda Sensei crept out slowly.
More shockingly was the unbelievable sight of what became outside. Everything were razed to the ground as if a thousand hurricanes had just swept across the country. "Could this be the end of the world?" I thought to myself.
We were asked by Sensei to return immediately to the dormitory to check on those who were unable to attend the morning lecture. We find it extremely difficult to look for direction as all the landmarks were gone. While we were wondering and searching for the right way we were to witness many heart-breaking sights involving the innocents. Some met instant death befallened by heavy structures, many others died in a pool of blood oozing from their heads and bodies, and no less were aimlessly running, screaming in pain, begging for help. In short, nothing else but the sound of miseries, sight and sufferings filtered through out ears. Hiroshima had been reduced to a hell-on-earth.
At long last we reached to the place which we thought where our hostel once stood. I called "Obasan! Obasan!", the way I used to call the lady-in-charge of the dormitory. Her real name was Takahasi-san. From underneath the piles of dirts and rocks came a weak reply, "Hai". We started to dig in the direction of the voice, expecting to see Obasan. But much to our suprise, it was Miss Sumida, the clerk working at the neighbouring company. We pulled her out only to find her eyes were covered with congealed blood caused by her spectacle smashed into her eyes.
Among the colleagues of Nanpo Tokubetsu Ryugakusei that were at the dormitory were the late Nik Yusuf from Kelantan, a state in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Nik remained untraced despite efforts to locate him almost everywhere. Another of our colleague was the late Syed Omar from Johore, a southern state of Peninsular Malaysia, who died in Kyoto on our way back from Hiroshima to Tokyo.
While busy helping to save our injured friends and the Japanese people, suddenly appeared from nowhere a roaring flame engulfing the houses on the bank of the Motoyasu river across Konanryo, our dormitory.
Almost instantly too, those fortunate enough to survive the bombing once again became frantic looking for a place to hide. A few managed to hide in a culvert which was soon packed with people desperate for their lives. But most could only lined the river bank resigned to their fate as the flame advanced to meet its victims. One by one they fell into the river screaming away as their charred bodies drifted in the water. All these happened right in front of my eyes like a nightmare that could not possibly be erased from my mind.
It was almost like a dramatization of the famous Malay proverb: a flame if left under uncontrolled could prove fatal. Very soon the flame spread literally like a wild fire, crossing the Takanobashi bridge taking its toll on the bank where the dormitory was. What I saw a while ago was about to happen to me and those by the river bank. Soon we will be roasted alive no different from those on the opposite side of the river.
But God is Great. I managed to get hold of a raft afloat near the river bank, probably the only mode of escape left. Sumida-san and a number of injured Japanese that we took with us were put onto the raft. As the flame approached fast, we hastened to help whosoever that were trapped by the remains of the dormitory. Unfortunately it was too late to rescue Obasan. Reluctantly she had to be left behind if the rest were to be saved. Obasan was consumed by the hungry flame.
We too, almost not spared. As the wind blew the flame shifted towards us on the raft. Everyone had to jump into the river in their struggle to stay alive. I held tight to a piece of wood keeping myself immersed in the water most of the time. Only occasionally did I lift my head above the water for a quick gush of air. When it became apparent that the flame had moved further away, we slowly climbed back onto the river bank. But our number declined drastically as most of those injured being swept by the river. Fortunately Sumida-san was still with us.
At approximately 4.00 pm, we were all safely back on the bank, preparing for the night on the Yorozuyo bridge closeby. The night was yet horrible dream. The cry for help continued to rage, becoming even more unbearable to the ears. I remembered the limpering sigh of "Misu Kudasi! Misu Kudasi!" yearning for a gulp of water to drink. Yusuf and I brought some water. Unfortunately, they died almost as soon as they drank. This frightened us and we began to advice the rest against drinking of water. But the choice for them was indeed limited. They either drink and die or otherwise faced death due to extreme thirst. We nevertheless remained resolute not to give them water so as to avoid being the peddler of death.
As for the other survivors, the effects of irridiation were equally shattering. I saw their skin peeled off, some with their skin dangling from the tip of their fingers. Their faces bloated like sponge cake, their hairs could be uprooted as easily as that of the grass from the ground.
Those directly affected, their clothing and bodies were completely burned. If anything should remian were the belt wrapped around their waist or the wrist watch they wore. Some died freezed like black ice.
All that I have tried to picture above were those recorded by my very own eyes. It was then I became fully aware of the Strength and Mercies of The Almighty God in dealing with His Creations. And that we are living on borrowed time, subservient to His Will Alone.
The next day, 7th. August 1945, my friends and I left for the University and camped on the campus again. We stayed for about 10 days under the open sky. We later stayed in the house of Sungaku Miwa-san at Ushita-machi, as a result of his generosity.
On 25th August 1945, we were brought back to Kokusai Gakuyukai, Meguro, Tokyo and were given medical treatment. I received a regular injection that could prevent my white blood cell count from falling to an alarming level.
The destruction of Hiroshima and the countless sufferings that it brought to the innocents, as I have witnessed and experienced were beyond any description. What ever I have attempted to put in words are best at approximate narration to what was the real situation. A reality so dark that it must be told regardless.
It is in fact the reality of war. Indeed war is cruel. Even more cruel are men who invented and initiated war. They have no respect for lives. They are willing to kill their fellow beings for the sake of self-interest and greed for wealth as well as power. While God created men to be equal, loving and to co- exist peacefully, they continually hate and trangress each other. Only the bitterness of Hiroshima can lead us back to the true path of God, spreading His message of peace and love among ourselves.