The Most Memorable Day of My Life

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I was fifteen years old and it was fourteen days until my sixteenth birthday. There were no major events that day that most would consider important. I wasn’t married that day nor did I have a baby or was I divorced or even graduate from high school, but it was the day that set the cou

The Most Memorable Day of My Life

Friday, 21 April 1995

I was fifteen years old and it was fourteen days until my sixteenth birthday.  There were no major events that day that most would consider important.  I wasn’t married that day nor did I have a baby or was I divorced or even graduate from high school, but it was the day that set the course of my life.

When I was a child my entire family consisted of myself and three other people; my parents and my beloved uncle, my mother’s older brother.  The three of them had been inseparable, with the exception of my uncle’s tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps, since 6 August 1945 when the B-29 Bomber, Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb on their home, Hiroshima, Japan.

All three were outside the city, on some sort of organized outing, when the bomb exploded.  My parents were both four years old and don’t remember much of the day, but my uncle was eleven and he remembered the flash, that he always said was brighter than the Sun, and the noise of the explosion.  They were separated from the city by a mountain that shielded them from the blast and the radiation.

Three children, my mother, her older brother, and a little boy who was their next-door neighbor, my mom’s best friend and who would be, one day, my father, found themselves alone and helpless in a destroyed city.  My uncle, who, obviously, was resourceful even as a child, scrounged, begged, and stole enough to keep them relatively safe and alive.

Eventually, he was caught stealing food from some sort of U. S. military installation, but a man he believes to have been a Marine officer, was impressed with how well he had provided for his small charges.  Before long, all three were on their way to America and a new life; a life he made certain they appreciated.

When he first encountered Americans, he was confused.  They weren’t monsters, as he had been led to believe, and he never saw them act hostile in any way.  What he did notice, especially after he was caught stealing from them, is that Americans were kind, generous and courteous people, even to the children of their enemy.  Rather than being punished for stealing he was taken in and provided for.  When they, my little family, landed in America they were, in their hearts, 100% Americans.

All three considered themselves Americans from the first time their feet touched American soil and what few connections they had to their homeland were forgotten.  My uncle made sure that they understood that the bomb that took everything and everyone from them, in all likelihood, had saved their lives.  He had been taught, in school, that the Americans were going to invade mainland Japan and would kill every man, woman, and child and that he was expected to defend his homeland and kill Americans.  He didn’t know any better; he believed what he was told.  Even after he learned that what he had been told was propaganda, he knew that an invasion would have killed many Japanese along with many Americans.  He recognized that the bomb, and the similar device that fell several days later, saved many lives on both sides.

I was raised by these three people to be an American; not a Japanese, not a Japanese-American but simply an American.  I was taught to love the country, and the people that had taken my family in and cared and provided for them.  I was taught that my country had already done more for me than anyone could expect and now, it was my turn to show gratitude.

My parents worked very hard to provide for me and give me every advantage they thought I should have.  My uncle had more time for me because he had learned a few marketable skills in Japan and was paid a higher wage because of that.  He had the most time to spend with me and he made certain I knew the history of my adopted homeland and that I knew how and why it was such a great nation.

On Friday afternoon, 21 April 1995, my uncle and I were out shopping.  He wanted to get me a nice dress for my birthday that was two weeks away.  He also surprised me by telling me that the next day we were going to a friend’s farm where I could get my first taste of driving even though I wasn’t quite old enough.  The car radio was on and we were half-way listening to the news.  We heard a reference to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that had happened two days before.  We stopped talking and listened.  I believe I can recite the line exactly as the newscaster read it 24 years ago.

“When Terry Nichols was apprehended, he was found to have, in his possession, copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and other subversive literature. 

That was the only time I had ever seen my uncle cry.


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Heisenburg 2 years ago

Beautiful Kimiko. Deep and moving. (Sorry for the late arrival, I have been absent for awhile due to business.) I am glad the Marine who caught your uncle 'appropriating' food was able to reflect the compassion and goodness which is typical of down-to-earth, grounded Americans. Your family is an example of exactly what makes America great because your family recognized the goodness that is here. And America is indeed a better place with you and your family in it. Thank you for sharing.

John Brewer 2 years ago

I'm proud to accept your friend request. You have the heart of a patriot and the "foeign" perspective that so many native Americans take for granted. May God bless you and watch over you even as He did your parents and uncle.

Max Grant 2 years ago

He knew what was coming...

Bernard Cacioppo 2 years ago

Great story! God Bless you and your family. I'm of Italian ancestry, but I also am an American!

Jaxn O 2 years ago

.... I sat spellbound as I read this post..... and look forward to "the rest of the story". I had many uncles that fought in the Pacific theater during WWII serving in the US Navy. The youngest one of my nine uncles served during the Korean conflict and also in Vietnam and brought home with him a Japanese bride named Setsio, (I hope I spelled her name right). My Uncle Jimmy introduced this remarkable woman to our family when I was about 13 years old, she could not speak a word of English and for me it was very difficult to interpret the depth of her understanding. I would sit with her and she would communicate with me through the books I had and the pictures in those books and slowly we became able to converse through that medium. Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Setsio had a baby girl, my cousin, and named her Maria. She grew up to become a police officer in the city of Orlando Fl. where they lived..... Aunt Setsio passed away a couple years ago and my Uncle Jimmy lives on, has not remarried and still carries a love for her that, when he does talk about her, is still as alive and real as when they first met.... I believe you also have those qualities that make you so special to those you care for and that care for you. Thanks Kim .....