On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Setsuko Nakamura sat with her Grade 8 classmates on the floor of her private girls school, listening to a lecture about duty to the emperor. Setsuko and some of her classmates had been training as decoding assistants for the Japanese army, in preparation for the final invasion by Allied forces. But the Allies didn’t invade Hiroshima.
At 8:15 a.m., Setsuko saw a blinding blue-white flash out the window; she felt her body fly through the air. When she regained consciousness, the schoolroom had collapsed around her. It was dark as night and silent except for the faint whispers of her classmates: “God help me. Mother, help me!”
She felt a hand on her back and a male voice – a soldier, perhaps – urging her to crawl to safety. She crawled. When she was free of the building, she turned around and saw in the unnatural darkness of morning that her school was on fire, her friends within it. She was 13 1/2 years old.
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