“Let the Bells of Peace Ring:
Nuclear events, more than half a century apart, and etched into Japanese history, were marked on Sunday in an interfaith ceremony at the Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.
The first atomic bomb ever dropped onto an inhabited city was released over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 5, 1945, killing an estimated 140,000 people. Three days later, a second atomic bomb, released over Nagasaki, Japan, a slightly smaller city, killed an estimated 74,000.
Within days, on August 15, the war which waged between the United States and Japan ended.
Tak Furumoto, of Fort Lee, a Vietnam veteran, opened the formal ceremony, with the reading of a Peace Declaration from Kazumi Matsui, mayor of Hiroshima, Japan.
Furumoto moved to Hiroshima as a boy after the war. A US citizen, he and his family were held in a US detention camp with other Japanese-Americans, when WWII erupted with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The Mayor’s declaration, mentioned that The Mayors for Peace Organization,now numbering 5,300 cities worldwide, will hold a Mayors for Peace general conference in Hiroshima next year.
Since March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, a nuclear reactor in Fukushima was damaged, the effects of the leak of radiation raise the question of safety of “peaceful” nuclear power, said Ted Tada, also of Fort Lee. A native of Tokushima, Japan, his city was spared nuclear bombing, but, lost 4,900 citizens in carpet bombings over a 2 hour-20 minute period. Tada was 12-years-old at the time. Japanese schoolboys that age, all over Japan, were on cleanup duty to remove the debris of the nightly attacks.
Tomiko Morimoto West, a survivor from Hiroshima, was the first of the participants to ring the peace bell, to bring the ceremony to a close, at 7:15 pm (8:15 am, the time of the bombing in Hiroshima). Mrs. West was 13 years old at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. She lost her entire family at that moment.
Mrs. West, 80, is a “hibakusha,” a survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings who continues to bear witness to the power of nuclear energy. The average age of “hibakusha” is now 78. As fewer eyewitnesses to the atomic bomb remain, the city of Hiroshima is currently carefully training official Hibakusha successors, to share both in Japan and abroad the desire for a nuclear-free world, she said.
An exhibit of Haiku and Tanka verse written by Japanese survivors of last year’s earthquake, tidal wave, and nuclear accident, entitled “Voices from Japan: Despair and Hope from Disaster, which opened earlier this year, is on display at the Cathedral until August 8.