Heaven -- where Nozomi is

Konishi Makiko, 35, housewife, Nishimoya-shi

gMom, Ifve made a kite at the kindergarten. I am going to fly it tomorrow. Good night,h said Nozomi, 5, before turning in.

A sudden gthud!h awakened me. The small round lamp, always turned on at bed time, went out. The surrounding was very dark, and I felt my body swaying left and right. I sensed something falling from the ceiling, and when I tried to cover my daughter, who was sleeping under the same quilt, she gave out an gOuch!h 

 gNozomi! Nozomi!h I called but there was no reply from under the quilt.

gHoney! Something has fallen on Nozomi!h I called out to my husband but he had been hit by fallen objects too. He struggled up but could not stand upright.

gI canft see anything. Where are you?h

gIfm all right. Rina is here too. Come help Nozomi!h

The pillar had collapsed and the main entrance was crushed.

gI go get some help. You hang in there!h said my husband as he kicked open the distorted side door and went out.

I could not move but managed somehow to stretch out my free hand to feel about for Nozomi. gNozomi! Nozomi!h I found her hand and squeeze it, but there was no response. Rina, who was under my left arm, tried to get out but it was extremely dangerous to wonder about now.

gRina, try get some sleep, canft you?h As I was talking, the weight on me got increasingly heavier. Just then, my husband came back with a torch and helped me out.

Under the light, we could see that the room was a total mess. The huge piano was tilted to one side and one of its corners fell on Nozomifs head while the viga fell from the second floor on to the piano.

gSomeone please help me!h I turned facing the door and shouted. The father of one of Nozomifs friends came to help. On seeing the plight we were in, he cried, gOh my goodness!h Sadly, two adults like us were not strong enough to lift the piano.

gLetfs get out and get help!h I told my husband, and we wrapped our younger daughter with a blanket and went out. The collapsed houses in the neighborhood were blocking the roads.

gSomeone please help me! Please call the ambulance!h

gOh no, the phone isnft working!h

I was standing barefooted, carrying my younger daughter, when a young man brought me a pair of shoes. Finally, a road, in the form of a tunnel passable to one adult at a time, was dug out. Soon, a few men brought along two car jacks and got Nozomi out. But already she was not breathing at this point.

We could not use our car because we did not have the key. Our neighbor was kind enough to drive us to the hospital. The roads to the hospital were skewed and covered in rubble. The nurse from a nearby hospital rushed over to attend to Nozomi.

The utilities in the first hospital we went to were cut off and pandemonium broke out. After given drip infusion, Nozomi began to regain heartbeat but the doctors were not able to do more. We managed to transfer her to the Kobe Hospital at last. The doctor at the ICU told us that it was too late. We prayed for a miracle but she breathed her last at 10 the next morning. I helped her dressed in a red sweater and her favorite sailormoon socks that my husband retrieved from our crumbled house. Then, we left the hospital.

On our way to my parentsf house, we passed by her favorite kindergarten. We reached our destination at 8 pm. The journey used to take just one hour, but it now took as long as nine hours. When the moon was beautiful, I would tell her, gNozomi, look at the moon fairy!h@and she would smile.@

At the Christmas party of her music class last December, we played a game in which Nozomi was blindfolded and had to seek me out. Nozomi was quick in finding me.

gfcos your palms are always warm.h

Nozomi used to smile and say, gMom, tell me whenever you are tired. Ifll always give you a shoulder message.h Those were the happy moments and how I wished I could relive them.

During her last moments, Nozomi was fortunate to have many people coming to her aid. The nurse, who did manual artificial respiration on her for hours when the power was down, kept encouraging her by saying, gNozomi, you can do it!h I was really touched by her words. I really must thank all of you who had extended your hands during those terrible moments.

I sure hate the earthquake that took your life, Nozomi. Mom and Dad arenft afraid of dying, but wefd do our best with our lives until we meet again in heaven. Nozomi, watch over us, wonft you?