Tsutomi Yamaguchi was on his way to the train station.
He’d been working in another city, and today he was due to go home.
It was 8.15am, the middle of the morning rush hour.
He could hear a plane overhead, way overhead.
He looked up and he saw a parachute come out of the plane.
Somebody had bailed out.
But actually, no one had bailed out.
The parachute changed into the brightest light imaginable.
It pierced his eyes, it pierced his brain.
His skin was scorched off in an instant.
He was smashed into a wall and everything went black.
At first he thought he was dead.
He was blind and deaf and half his body was burned away.
Tsutomi Yamaguchi didn’t know it, but he’d experienced the first atomic bomb.
As he gradually regained some blurred vision, all he could see was smoke and rubble where Hiroshima had previously been.
He tried to stand, he fell.
He used a pile of bricks to get himself onto his feet.
He staggered to the train station.
Like everything else, it was gone.
He stumbled around all day, in a nightmare of dead and dying.
He spent that night in a makeshift shelter.
In the morning he dragged himself back to where the station had been.
He was determined to get home, to die at home.
And amazingly he did get home.
And amazingly he didn’t die.
He was covered in bandages when, three days later, he reported for work.
All his colleagues wanted to know what had happened.
Why was he covered in bandages?
He began describing the single bomb that destroyed an entire city.
His boss told him not to be hysterical.
Such a thing was impossible, as an engineer he should know that.
And over his boss’s shoulder, through the window, he saw the unimaginably bright light again.
And the building they were all standing in, together with the entire city, was destroyed.
Nagasaki wasn’t supposed to be destroyed.
The main target for the bomber was Kokura.
But that city was covered in cloud.
Nagasaki was the secondary target.
Although it too was covered in cloud, by then the bomber was low on fuel and had to drop the bomb anyway.
So because of an incredible series of coincidences, Tsutomi Yamaguchi became the victim of both the only two atomic bombs ever used in war.
So is he the unluckiest person alive?
Because he was bombed twice.
Or is he the luckiest person alive?
Because he survived twice.
Tsutomi Yamaguchi is very clear about it.
I think what he says is good advice for all of us.
“I could have died on either of those days. Everything that follows is a bonus.”