Today marks the day in 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, followed three days later by another being dropped on Nagasaki. More than 130,000 people were killed, half the day of the bombings. It remains the only time in history nuclear weapons have been used in war. While some will argue about whether or not the bombs shortened the war and saved lives, few will argue the day changed the world forever. The image above of the smoke rising from the bombing of Nagasaki is painful to view, even 70 years after.
A small group of us stand in front of our local Federal building every Friday from noon to 1:00, as we have for most of the last 25 years, to remind ourselves and our friends and neighbors that war—in any form—has never worked to achieve peace. Many weeks our witnessing feels like only a token effort compared to the enormity of what seems an intractable reality but on this week of the year it is easy to remember why we are there.
Remembering Hiroshima is particularly important to me this year as we debate the merits of a political solution to the presence of nuclear weapons in the Middle East versus a military approach. My entire life has been spent in the grim shadow of the possible annihilation of life on Earth. Even long after the end of the Cold War, we remain insanely vulnerable with thousands of these monster weapons poised to be launched in ten minutes or less. A launch could happen either intentionally or accidentally—and serious weapons-related accidents do and have happened. The relatively simple step of decoupling warheads from weapons would immediately result in a much safer world and, perhaps, allow us to see that we can once and for all honor the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by saying “Never again!”
My thoughts turn to Sadako Sasaki on this day; she is the inspiration for the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima, and I’m sure more paper cranes will be added there today:
“The Children’s Peace Monument is also called the “Tower of a Thousand Cranes”, for many thousands of folded paper cranes are offered there all through the year. The origin of the monument can be traced back more than four decades.
Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the bombing at age two, contracted leukemia ten years later and died. Shocked by her death, her classmates put out a national call to “build a monument to mourn all the children who died from the atomic bombing.” With the support of students in more than 3,100 schools around Japan and in nine other countries, including England, the Society was able to build this bronze statue that stands nine meters high.
On the top of the three-legged pedestal stands the bronze figure of a girl holding up a gold-colored “folded” crane. On opposite sides of the pedestal are suspended boy and girl figures symbolizing a bright future and hope. On the stone underneath the pedestal is inscribed, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”
The monument was created by Kazuo Kikuchi, then a professor of Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. A gold crane modeled after an ancient bronze bell initially hung under a bell inside the tower. This piece was contributed by Dr. Hideki Yukawa, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, who was much moved by the feelings of the children.”
Thank you, John, for being one of those “Peace Builders”.