Edward Abrahamson

Recently I came across the 2016 obituary for Edward Abrahamson, who was the school principle at my elementary school, Flower Hill Elementary.

I will always remember him as the man who saved my life, even though he technically didn’t save my life. I was in the 3rd grade, and I was walking to school when this monster-sized dog jumped on me, knocked me over, then stood on me, pinning me to the ground. It was actually a sweet, overly friendly dog and I was in no danger, and I kinda knew that, but the dog was also so big and what if I was wrong? So I was laying on the side of the road, with this huge dog staring down at me, when Mr. Abrahamson drove by, on his way to work. He stopped and asked, “Do you need help?” “Yes!” He got out and smiled and that’s when I realized, yeah, I was probably not in danger. “Come on boy,” he said to the dog who happily got off me. He was a good boy really, and Mr. Abrahamson took me the rest of the way to school.

Even though I knew that I had been safe all along he was still my hero. God knows how long I would have lain there before either the dog got bored or I decided to try to just get up. He rescued me. And he was so sweet about it. He didn’t make me feel stupid for being scared. He was such a nice man. Thank you Mr. Abrahamson. I never forgot you. (He’s in the center of the first row below.)

I had to pass that dog every school day for the next three years and I always dreaded him. Although it’s not life threatening it was no fun to have a dog knock you over and stand on you when you are teeny.

Remembering Yoshimaro Mori

I only recently discovered C-SPAN3, which on the weekends airs American History TV. There is always something good on then, and last night I watched all their Hiroshima programing. Toward the end of a documentary called A Thousand Cranes – The Children of Hiroshima, by Betty Jean Lifton, I was captivated by the story of the founding of an orphanage by a man named Yoshimaro Mori. (I linked to the documentary above, the section about Mr. Mori begins at 16:00.).

I spent the next few hours researching him, and was shocked that there was so little to be found. I thought I was going to find that he was a national hero. In the documentary they talk about the fact that he was moved by all the orphans he saw around the railroad station, who’d been forced to make a living on the black market and by prostitution. According to the documentary, in September, 1946, he “abducted” 60 children and brought them Ninoshima Island, two miles away. I guess they didn’t want to go with him. Perhaps going to an orphanage was even less appealing than living on the streets. Robert Jungk, an Austrian writer and journalist who wrote Children of the Ashes, describes it this way:

“To begin with he had to catch them, quite literally, and have them transported under supervision to their new home. However, he succeeded eventually in transforming barracks formerly filled with misery … into a happy, indeed a model, colony of children.”

In the documentary they say only 43 of the 60 children he rounded up made it to the island, but there’s no explanation about what happened to the other 13. Maybe they jumped ship and swam back to Hiroshima. The oprhanage, called Ninoshima Gakuen, would become the largest orphanage in Japan.

Norman Cousins, (journalist, author, editor, peace activist) visited Ninoshima Gakuen in 1949, and initiated a program called “moral adoption.” Americans could adopt the Hiroshima orphans, except they would stay in Japan, and their adoptive parents would pay for their care. Novelist Pearl Buck, and author and journalist John Hersey, whose 1946 New Yorker articles gave Americans one of the first real accounts about what happened in Hiroshima, helped with the campaign. (Note to self: read more about Norman Cousins.)

Singer Marian Anderson visited Ninoshima Gakuen in 1953, sang to the children and donated money. I learned from Yoshimaro Mori’s thank you letter that he had a daughter, Kazuko, who lived with him on the island. I found a Japanese professor with that name, who is of the right age, but I have not contacted her yet. Part of my hesitation is because of the way he died.

In the documentary, they show one of the original 43 children, a young man name Sato, (who I also plan to research) visiting Yoshimaro Mori’s grave on the island. From Robert Jungk’s essay I learned the following about the end of Mr. Mori’s life:

“He received no thanks for this [for establishing the successful orphanage]. In 1955 he was accused – quite unjustly, as was later proved – for reasons of local political intrigue, of having embezzled money. He committed hara-kiri in despair at the disgrace thus brought upon his Orphans’ Island.”

How completely heart-breaking. For such a good man to come to such an end. This is probably why I found so little written about him. If you google his name you’ll see what I mean. I did come across a letter he had written to the editors at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1952. They had expressed interest in adopting and Mr. Mori explains their work at Ninoshima Gakuen and the concept of moral adoption. I hope to be able to find out more Yoshimaro Mori, but for now I want to publicly to thank him for doing such a great and important thing. I hope this post is just one of many to be written about him, and that awareness of his work is recovered. He was a good man and deserves to be honored and remembered.

A couple of pictures of Sato at Mr. Mori’s grave. Sato never forgot him.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Anniversaries

A few weeks ago I watched two movies on TCM about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. They were, of course, devastating. Today I’ll be reading articles about the bombings, and looking at pictures (and I want to get a copy of new book “Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.”)

I’m sure I’ve told this story many times, it’s about the first and only time I cried while volunteering down at St. Paul’s Chapel during the World Trade Center recovery period after 9/11. Every day donations from all around the country and the world would arrive at the chapel. One day we got boxes and boxes from Japan filled with tiny, paper origami cranes. The cranes are a symbol of peace and also a gift that is meant to grant good luck, health and recovery. They were made famous by Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who lived near Hiroshima and who died as a result of the bombing. When she was in the hospital she folded 1,000 paper cranes, because according to legend that would grant her a wish. I would imagine her wish was to live, but she didn’t make it.

Also inside all the boxes where cards from the people of Nagasaki to the people of New York, expressing sympathy and hope for our healing and recovery. That’s when I cried. I have always felt dropping those bombs was a terrible, unspeakable wrong, but dropping the second bomb on Nagasaki was immoral on a level beyond comprehension. It was the first time I realized that we, America, were not the good guys I thought we were. I’m not sure how old I was. Junior high age? My innocence was gone. I think I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee that same year.

But I was crying because of the sympathy cards. It was an incredible lesson about forgiveness, and not holding hate and anger in your heart. Could I ever be as good a person as the people who sent these cards?

Graffiti I passed by the other day. Will I ever be as good a person as John Lewis?

Waiting for the Storm to Hit

We got a tornado warning. “The tornado threat from Tropical Storm Isaias has increased for portions of the area. SPC has issued an Enhanced Risk of severe weather for parts of the area for a 10% chance of tornadoes. A tornado watch is in effect until 4 PM.” So I’ll be inside for the day, puttering.

A pharmacy near me is displaying two books of prescriptions dated 1911 and 1903 (not entirely sure of the date of the second one, the last number was difficult to read). I went inside to ask if they had a prescription book from 1918. It would be interesting to read what was being prescribed during the 1918 epidemic. But they only had the two books. Still, I would love to read through these books at my leisure some day. Maybe I would find interesting patterns, or famous people who had afflictions we were not aware of.

That’s right, F U virus!

Seen on my walk this morning. My feelings exactly. I want my life and my city back. And what I wouldn’t give for a nice long swim. And to go to the movies. And for choir to resume.