Annual Ashland gathering memorializes atomic blast, seeks to prevent another
By Diarmuid McGuire
At 8:16 a.m. Aug. 6, 1945, a bright, sunny morning, Hideko Tamura, age 10, was reading in the garden of her home near Hiroshima, Japan. “I was the happiest child,” she recalled later.
At that moment, a fireball hotter than the surface of the sun materialized in the sky 550 fee above a medical clinic near the center of the city. A woman sitting beside the Ota River, a half a mile from the detonation, was vaporized. Shielded somehow from the flash of light hot enough to melt skin from bone and from the blast that followed, Hideko joined a throng of burned and injured neighbors running for shelter from fire in the nearby river.
Seventy-seven years later, Hideko (now Hideko Tamura Snider) has retired from a career as a clinical therapist and lives in Medford. On Saturday morning, she joined a group of neighbors and peace activists at Thalden Pavilion on Walker Street in Ashland, next to The Farm at Southern Oregon University (SOU), to reflect on the trauma of Hiroshima and the historical threads that connect it to a new century.
This year’s Hiroshima-Nagasaki Observance was 38th in a sequence that stretches back in Jackson County history to a memorial organized by the Quaker Meeting in the mid-1980s. More recently, Ashland’s Peace House has organized the annual remembrance in partnership with a dozen Southern Oregon churches and peace organizations. One Sunny Day Initiatives (OSDI), a foundation created by Tamura Snider, has also played a leading role in the event.
Attended by an overflow crowd of close to 100, the 2022 memorial gathering heard messages of support for nuclear disarmament from Ashland Mayor Julie Akins and Hiroshima Mayor Matsui Kazumi, both of whom number among more than 8,000 Mayors for Peace worldwide.
In Ashland, One Sunny Day tied the observance to a biological thread that leads back to trees burned by the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. Miraculously — much like some of the trees reduced to black snags by the Almeda Fire along Bear Creek in September 2020 — a few of the trees burned in Hiroshima in 1945 produced green shoots the following spring. Later activists established Green Legacy Hiroshima with the aim of nurturing and distributing seeds and saplings descended from these survivor trees. Over the past few years, SOU horticulturists led by former Landscape Supervisor Michael Oxendine cultivated 120 saplings from seeds provided by Green Legacy, including a 2-foot tall Gingko biloba planted recently near the Thalden Pavilion.
As vigil participants watered the baby Ginkgo Saturday, accompanied by the Rogue Valley Peace Choir, they reflected on another thread, one that links the devastation of Hiroshima to the environmental destruction that followed colonization of indigenous cultures by European powers.
Dan Wahpepah of Red Earth Descendants connected the culture that destroyed Hiroshima to the culture that has damaged the Earth’s biosphere, producing mass extinctions and, now, droughts, floods and wildfires linked to global warming. But Wahpepah added a note of hope: “My community empowers me,” he said, urging reconnection of individuals to communities and of communities with the natural world. Wahpepah called this the “re-indigenation” of human consciousness.
“This was among the most moving ceremonies that I’ve been involved in” commented Herb Rothschild, one of the observance organizers whose awareness of colonization and environmental destruction dates back to a 1978 visit to burned-out neighborhoods in the Bronx. He remembers an indigenous leader pointing out that stewardship of that area had passed from native cultures to colonists three centuries earlier.
“We are ashamed with what you have done with it,” Rothschild recalls the leader saying.
“We must reconnect with the caregivers,” Rothschild said. “The alternative is war and utter carelessness for life.”
Email Ashland.news contributing writer Diarmuid McGuire at firstname.lastname@example.org.