'I Have a Mission'
by Margie Hunt
The hibakusha--survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--are the only individuals in history to have directly experienced the horror of an atomic bombing. Their number includes not only Japanese but Koreans, Chinese and others who were in those cities.
Until recently, Margie Hunt, a pioneer SGI-USA member, was silent about her memories of Hiroshima, even to her son. In the past, she acknowledged that she was from Hiroshima and was there on that summer day of August 6, 1945. She would not, however, elaborate on what she saw or the effects of that day on her life.
A teenager at the time, she had decided to take a day off from her factory job to spend the day in her father's engineering office to daydream. She saw a dark yellowish color in the sky and wondered why searchlights were roaming the sky so early in the day. A split second later, windows exploded and walls collapsed. She hid under her father's desk.
As she and her father made their way home, she remembers people walking aimlessly through the streets, some naked, their burned skin hanging in strips. Later, in a hospital where her sister was being treated, Margie remembers people pleading to die.
On her first day out of the house after the bombing, Margie noticed the ground was littered with what looked like fluorescent flowers. As she walked among them, she realized that these "flowers" were pieces of bodies and bones of human beings, glowing from radiation.
The war left Margie with an iron determination to chart her own path in life, first rejecting her father's offer to set her up in a dressmaking shop. Instead, she emigrated to the American South in 1955. She plastered over her feelings and became, in her words, "cold and distant."
In 1965, she started practicing Nichiren Buddhism. She had embraced her Buddhist practice on an intellectual level. But it wasn't until 2006, when she met Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, that she could release her feelings about her wartime experiences.
After meeting and talking with him, she cried for the first time. "For 60 years, I said nothing," she admits. "Now, I feel I have a mission to share what I experienced during the war. Lots of people don't know about what happened--it's my promise to tell them, and I will work hard, wherever I can."
It is impossible to express, she says, how precious is this life, and her Buddhist practice which has brought her to this point. Margie has made this line from a poem by SGI President Ikeda her inspiration: "Break down the wall of your heart. If you achieve self-reformation, then everything will change around you."
[Courtesy, July 2007 SGI Quarterly]