74th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Building a Community to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

“I will never forget it even if I want to forget.” These profound words were shared by a survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombing, Kodama Michiko, who traveled from Japan to attend the 74th Anniversary commemoration of the tragedy organized by the Hiroshimar/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area.

Mrs. Michiko was seven years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and was saved by her father who carried her to safety. “I have to remember it. The survivors are over 80 and there are only a few people alive to remember. Let’s get together so we suffer no more war, no more atomic bombs.” Describing the horrible events of that day, Mrs. Michiko wrote in her prepared statement, “On my way home, carried on my father’s back, I witnessed hell on earth. I saw a man with his skin burned heavily and peeled. A mother was carrying a baby which was burned black and looked like charcoal.” Her heart wrenching descriptions of the suffering continued and cannot but impress upon us that nuclear weapons need to be banned.

The first event of the week-long commemoration took place at the Eaton Hotel in DC, which has been recognized as a hub for impact initiatives and a holistic healing center. Mrs. Michiko, an Hibakusha (survivor of the bombings) presented a memento of 1000 handmade paper cranes all stitched together into ribbons to the hotel’s host, Sebi Medina-Tayac. A Piscataway tribe member, Sebi Tayac welcomed the audience, stating that before there was a city of DC, this was Indian land. “We want to welcome you to this land on behalf of the Original People.” He was joined by Sheila Hanson of the Shawnee Tribe.

John Steinbach of the Peace Committee remarked during the event that it is through these commemorations that the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not be forgotten, never to be repeated again. “We are part of a movement to outlaw nuclear weapons,” he stated. “We are building a community together for the abolition of nuclear war.”

A central figure in the movement to bring an end to nuclear weapons, film producer and artist Shizumi Manale, was introduced by Chuck Wooldridge of the All Souls Unitarian Church. Ms. Manale produced the documentary film, “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard,” which focuses on drawings made by Japanese children who survived the Hiroshima bombings using art supplies sent to them as a gift by children from All Saints Church in DC. The Japanese children sent the pictures they drew to the children at the Church. 50 years later, the pictures were discovered in a parishioner’s closet and Shizumi Manale returned to Japan to interview the artists (now in their 80s) where they reflected on their experiences in the decimated city and the hope they shared through their art.

Mr. Wooldridge commented on the importance of art as an expression of hope in the face of suffering. The pictures drawn by the child survivors of Hiroshima should give us hope that compassion and love can prevail and overcome even such evils as nuclear war.

The DC labor Chorus closed the program at the Eaton Hotel singing a song of peace, “Peace Salam Shalom,” the African-American Spirituals “Ain’t you got a right to the tree of life” and “Honey in the rock for all of god’s children.”

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