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A Japan atomic bomb survivor remembers the Nagasaki attack

Sueichi Kido describes the moment as "a flash and a boom."

He was just 5 years old the day the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on his hometown of Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000 people.

Kido still remembers hearing the Enola Gay flying in, while he ate a cup of somen noodles outside, 71 years ago.

"I never saw the plane. I just heard it," the 76-year-old said. "I remember saying 'it sounds like a US plane.' The engine was so lively."

Moments later, Kido saw a flash light up the sky. Then, a loud explosion.

The impact threw him 100 feet away, and knocked him unconscious.

Sueichi Kido, 76, survived the attack on his hometown of Nagasaki in 1945 that killed more than 70,000 people.
Akiko Fujita
Sueichi Kido, 76, survived the attack on his hometown of Nagasaki in 1945 that killed more than 70,000 people.

"When I woke up, I couldn't even recognize my mother's face," he said. "It was completely burned. It swelled up immediately. She couldn't see."

Still, she carried him to a nearby bomb shelter where she collapsed. The images Kido saw on the way, still haunt him.

"I saw charred, dead bodies everywhere," he said. "People kept yelling 'give me water, give me water."

Despite the horrors he witnessed, Kido says it took him 7 years to realize he had survived an atomic bomb. News was censored in the immediate aftermath of the attack. His family and friends never talked about it. He connected the dots, only after he saw a photo-book documenting victims.

"To say that I'm a hibakusha, to say that I experienced the atomic bomb took a huge amount of courage," Kido said, using the Japanese term given to atomic bomb survivors. "Even in college, I tried to change the subject when people talked about the war. My friends never dared ask about my experience."

Yet, over the last 20 years Kido has become an active member of the Nihon Hidankyo, the Japan Confederation of Atomic Sufferers Organizations, in part because he knows the number of living atomic bomb survivors is dwindling fast. Just 180,000 remain.

"I have only a small story to offer, but my generation is the last that will be able to share it with the world," he said.

Kido has traveled all over Japan, and shared his story at the United Nations in New York. And while he won't be traveling to Hiroshima to see President Barack Obama visit the sight of the nuclear attack, he hopes the visit sheds new light on the horrors of war. A commitment to a nuclear-free world, he says, would be far more powerful than any apology.

"(The atomic bomb) was a mistake that humanity caused. It must never happen again," he said. "We need to accept that. That's the most important thing."

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