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Peace activists mark world's worst terror attack
By Emma Winterbottom
Updated Aug 9, 2007 - 2:33:00 PM

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The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy. Photo: US Archives
?Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two mammoth occurrences of death and destruction. They are also unique in that they are the only instances in which nuclear weapons have been used in warfare.?
NEW YORK -- On this date [August 6] 62 years ago, the U.S. bomber "Enola Gay" descended from the skies above the Japanese city of Hiroshima to drop an atomic bomb named "Little Boy."

Three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945, the city of Nagasaki became victim to the same fate as "Fat Man" plummeted from the U.S. B29 Superfortress.

The Radiation Effects Research Foundation acknowledges the validity problems that plague statistics about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it nevertheless estimates that 90,000 to 140,000 acute deaths occurred after Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 after Nagasaki. “Acute deaths” describe those that occurred two to four months after the bombing.

The difficulty of accurately determining the death toll from the two nuclear bombs is due to a number of factors, but mainly because many deaths due to radiation poisoning occurred months and even years after the initial event. Criticism of the actions of the United States and then-President Harry S. Truman's decision to drop the bombs has also been said to hinder the reporting of the event.

What is evident is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two mammoth occurrences of death and destruction. They are also unique in that they are the only instances in which nuclear weapons have been used in warfare. This fact caused the events to be surrounded by horror and controversy, as science and war seemed to have reached a new level, extending beyond anything that humankind had ever seen before.

The energy released by the bomb was powerful enough to burn through clothing. The dark portions of the garments this victim wore at the time of the blast were emblazoned on to the flesh as scars. Photo: Archives.gov
SuZen, founder and co-director of the Universal Peace Initiative, a New York-based organization formerly known as Art for the People, said the bombings "changed the whole world."

That opinion is shared by many, including Anne Gibbons of CODEPINK NYC, who described the attacks on the Japanese cities as "a stain on history" that left her "horrified."

For these reasons, many feel it is of extreme importance that the anniversaries of the bombings are commemorated and not slowly erased from the history books. Cities around the United States held events to mark the anniversaries.

Manhattan made its own contribution to the cause by conducting a number of activities this past weekend and the coming week. For example, Bruce Gagnon, the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, delivered a thought-provoking presentation at the Unitarian Church of All Souls, which is based in Manhattan. Gagnon spoke of the need to accelerate nuclear disarmament and stop the weaponization of space.

He conceded the difficulties of achieving these aims, suggesting that governments are becoming more corporate and pouring money into their militaries, but he nevertheless proposed potential responses. He emphasized the importance of local and grassroots initiatives and described how communication between them could build success.

The Adult Education, Peace Task Force, and Nuclear Disarmament groups at the Unitarian Church of All Souls, sponsored the event, along with Peace Action New York State and CODEPINK NYC.

Universal Peace Day on Sunday started with an afternoon peace concert at the Central Park Bandshell. Featured performers attending from both the U.S. and Japan included Kathleen Chalfant, Shinji Harada, Ray Korona Band, Laraaji, Robin Greenstein and Moogy Klingman.

The New York Buddhist Church then hosted a commemoration ceremony led by Reverend T.K. Nagagaki of the New York Buddhist Church and attended by Hiroshima survivor Koji Kobayashi, among others.

It included a screening of the film "The Lost Generation" and a chiming of the bells at the exact moment of the bombing of Hiroshima (7:15 p.m. local time). The memorial service also featured readings of messages from the present mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tadatoshi Akiba and Tomihisa Taue.

Akiba's words, spoken by Tak Furumoto, were particularly moving as he described the horrific deaths and how survivors were plagued with misery as they "struggled day after day, questioning the meaning of life."

A silent candlelit walk led the congregation on to the final location of Universal Peace Day at the Riverside Church, where an interfaith service hosted by Randi Rhodes of radio station Air-America was conducted.

The Fat Man mushroom cloud resulting from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rises 18 km (11 mi, 60,000 ft) into the air from the hypocenter. Photo: US Archives
The events acted as commemorations for Hiroshima and Nagasaki even as they sought to educate the attendees about the ongoing dangers of nuclear weapons.

Cheryl Wertz, the executive director of Peace Action New York State, said that though Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only cases in history of nuclear weapons being used in warfare, there is nothing to say it will remain that way forever.

"It is a common misconception that the threat of nuclear war ended with the Cold War. That's simply not true, particularly with Iran," Wertz said.

SuZen also remarked on the poignancy of this year’s post-9/11, mid-Iraq commemoration, referring to "the condition and insanity that the world is in now." Her thoughts were shared by Reverend Nakagaki, who said, "the world is doing a lot of chaotic things."

Sponsors of both events urged that steps be taken to ensure that contemporary society does not forget the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the risks that nuclear warfare still pose to civilization today.

Hiroshima's mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba, directed criticism at the United States, among other countries, this weekend at a Japanese ceremony held at the Peace Memorial Park, close to the spot where the bomb was dropped.

"The Japanese government, which has the duty to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons through international law, should protect its pacifist constitution, which it should be proud of, and clearly say 'No' to antiquated and wrong U.S. policies," he said.

Bruce Gagnon also spoke to the U.S. people, asking them to look away from their modern, consumer-driver society and take note of the life-threatening nuclear situation, and the U.S.’s role in it.

"There is something more important than material consumption," he said. "There is something more important than the name on your business card, and that is the future of our planet."


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