‘I felt scared because I lost my emotions for a time.’

Shizuyo Takeuchi, Japanese survivor

‘I felt scared because I lost my emotions for a time.’

Shizuyo Takeuchi, Japanese survivor

There’s no escaping her memories of February 25, 1945—the night American B-29s firebombed Tokyo. Then 13, Takeuchi returned to find cinders where her home had been. Only an iron rice pot survived. The forbidden English dictionary, a gift from her father, was ash. She held a single page, which the wind soon swept away. A second firebombing on March 10 left her with images of running through a maelstrom of debris and smoke, and passing charred bodies—one, a mother who had tried to shield her infant beneath her.

“I felt scared because I lost my emotions for a time,” Takeuchi recalls. Now 89, married and with a son and daughter, she works as a storyteller at a center dedicated to bearing witness to the horrors of war.

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