Dozens on Sunday in Lithia Park commemorated the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a survivor to give talk at Ashland church Wednesday
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
The song “Over the Banks” by Miko Rose, set to the tune of “Danny Boy,” could be heard throughout the entrance to Lithia Park in Ashland Sunday morning as dozens gathered for a ceremony of remembrance to commemorate 78 years since an atomic bomb descended on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.
Rose, the daughter of Medford resident and Hiroshima survivor Hideko Tamura Snider, wrote the song lyrics for “Over the Banks” to honor Tamura Snider’s late mother, who was killed in the bombing. Rose recorded the song in Hiroshima during the Rogue Valley Peace Choir’s journey to Japan in 2006.
The lyrics were provided for those who attended: “For those who died and gave life without knowing, no kind goodbye or words for planned farewell/We send you love and hold you in the highest/ Hiroshima, I pray you rest in peace,” the song’s last line reads.
Elizabeth Hallett, director of Peace House in Ashland, acknowledged that Tamura Snider, who has participated in previous anniversary events, was with family and unable to attend the event on Sunday.
“For those of you who know Hideko, I know she would want me to say how thankful she is to the community here that would come together,” Hallett said. “It’s a tough day for her.”
“We do look forward to hearing from her on (Aug. 9) at the Congregational church,” Hallett added.
On Wednesday, Tamura Snider will speak at an event named “90 seconds to midnight” at 7 p.m. at the Ashland Congregational Church, 717 Siskiyou Blvd., in Ashland. Tamura Snider, 89, was 10 years old when the attack took place.
Michael Niemann, a retired International Studies professor, will also speak at the event, which is organized by Peace House in conjunction with One Sunny Day Initiatives and the Justice and Witness team.
On Sunday, Niemann lit a memorial flame, a flame of peace representing the flame lit in Hiroshima’s memorial park.
“It has burned continuously in Hiroshima since August of 1964, and it will remain lit until all nuclear weapons are destroyed,” Hallett said.
Attendees were encouraged to participate in a water ceremony. A proclamation from Hiroshima Mayor Matsui Kazumias was read by Estelle Voeller.
Voeller said this year’s proclamation was particularly lengthy and she only read it in part.
Kazumi shared that the G7 Leaders Hiroshima Summit held in May invited world leaders to visit the Peace Memorial Museum and discuss what occurred there nearly 80 years prior with A-bomb survivors.
“Against this backdrop (the cenotaph), the G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament was compiled as an independent document for the first time, reaffirming that the ultimate goal is to realize a world free of nuclear weapons in a form that does not compromise the security of all. At the same time, it was expressed that each country has adopted its security policy on the premise that nuclear weapons should be useful for defense purposes as long as they exist.”
Kazumi encouraged a culture of peace and that the Japanese government offer more support for survivors of Hiroshima, many who still live with the effects of radiation.
“Today, on the occasion of the Peace Memorial Ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the spirits of the atomic bomb victims, and pledge to do my utmost together with the people of Nagasaki, the site of the atomic bombing, and the people of the world who share the same thoughts toward the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting world peace beyond that,” said Kazumi in a statement read by Estelle Voeller.
Niemann also sounded the gong, inviting those gathered to participate in a minute of silence remembering the time that the atomic bomb exploded over the city of Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m.
Ashland Mayor Tonya Graham also shared a proclamation of peace approved by the City
Council. She also participated in the water ceremony, ladling water onto a rock placed in front of the audience.
Ashland’s public commitment to end the threat of nuclear catastrophe dates to 1982, when its citizens passed a ballot measure declaring the city a Nuclear Free Zone, according to the city proclamation.
Ashland became a Mayors for Peace city in 1998, responding to a global invitation from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the proclamation reads. There are currently more than 8,000 Mayors for Peace cities in 164 nations and regions, including 218 in the U.S. and eight in Oregon — the city of Salem the most recent to join.
The Rev. Liz Olson, who serves as a spiritual health specialist for Providence Medford Medical Center, shared a message and benediction at the gathering, contrasting the beautiful, sunny morning with the “horrific” anniversary of the bombing.
Olson thanked the audience for bearing witness to the anniversary, even amid difficult emotions.
“As we remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why come here and face remembering that this bombing did not stop humanity into forever outlawing atomic and nuclear weapons?” Olson said. “It sent us into a whole new, surreal reality where bomb after bomb, one impossibly more powerful than the last, would continue to be methodically built and ready.”
Olson described that fission occurs when a neutron is violently slammed into a larger atom, splitting it into smaller atoms.
“Fission is an unnatural act of isolated, separated, blasting apart what used to be conjoined.
“A beautiful, exquisite atom, nature’s physical thumbprint and foundation of life, God’s creation I would say. Fission is the antithesis of life.”
Olson described atomic and nuclear fission as completely the opposite action of “coming together,” what she believes is needed moving forward. Whether in grief or to make change, she encouraged attendees that it must be done together.
“We cannot do it alone, we cannot sustain isolation or promulgate isolationism,” Olson said.
At the beginning of her message, Olson asked the crowd about their emotions.
“I wonder what emotions and feelings are stirring in you this morning – Outrage? Anguish? Are you repulsed? … Or overwhelmed? I imagine it might be a mix of all of these and many more. And so I want to thank you for having the courage to come here, for knowing that difficult feelings may arise, and for being willing to allow them, knowing that bearing witness may mean bearing very uncomfortable feelings and coming anyway. Your courage to do so says, ‘I care.’ It honors those who have suffered and died. Your presence here today is an act of resistance, that says I will not forget.”
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.