Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance mixes memory, music and hope

By Jane Stoever

The annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance, hosted by PeaceWorks, Kansas City, at Loose Park Lagoon in Kansas City, Missouri, gathered 70 persons for reflections, music, and a vow of nonviolence. Calling for acts of love, Henry Stoever, chair of the PeaceWorks Board, said in opening the program, “We cannot undo tragedy. We can say we are sorry. We can build a better world. We can be compassionate. We can walk the journey, accompanying those who are suffering. We can be love.”

Tom Fox, former editor and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, noted the distance between Kansas City and Hiroshima: 6,533 miles. “But tonight there is no distance between Hiroshima and Kansas City,” he insisted. “And in this night, we are gathered at the very same time many thousands are gathered in Japan. So time and space have evaporated. Hiroshima is now more than a place. Hiroshima is an idea. Hiroshima is a movement. Hiroshima is a way of life. Hiroshima is a future without nuclear weapons.” Referring to many memorial events around the world, he continued, “It behooves us and others to gather not just to mourn but also to move forward. Every single one of us is providing hope.”

PeaceWorks Board member Sunny Hamrick rang a gong 73 times to mark the years since the Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945, nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. PeaceWorks treasurer Dave Pack compared the bombs dropped in Hiroshima (15 kt or kilotons) and Nagasaki (21 kt) with today’s bombs, between 300 and 500 kt, some 20-30 times the power of the 1945 bombs. However, Pack observed, “We come in hope, for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed on July 7, 2017, by a United Nations vote of 122 in favor, 1 against, 1 abstention, with 69 non-voting nations.” By now, 59 nations have signed the treaty, and 14 have ratified it, out of the 50 ratifications needed for the treaty to take effect. Pack said this year’s program was held “in remembrance and in hope.”

Atsuki Mori, a Japanese woman living in Warrensburg, Missouri, spoke of her grandmother, who lived in Osaka, Japan, during the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. Her grandmother became a wonderful physician, Mori said, but added, “My grandfather was hard to deal with. She (her grandmother) did not have a good life as a wife.” After both grandparents died, an old photo album surfaced, including a large photo of a young man dead, with flowers around his face. “He looked like he was sleeping,” Mori said. The family realized the man was the grandmother’s former fiancé. “I think he died because of leukemia” from the Hiroshima bombing, said Mori. If the atomic bomb were never dropped, she added, “my grandmother would have been much happier.”

Michael McGrath, of Kansas City, Kansas, played some Japanese songs (in the public domain) on the flute, as well as “’Tis the Gift to Be Simple.”

Benedictine Sister Barbara McCracken, of Atchison, Kansas, reflected on the nonviolent protests of the renewed Poor People’s Campaign. The PPC harks back to Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to protest poverty, racism and militarism, and the current campaign also targets environmental degradation. McCracken joined demonstrations on two weeks in Topeka, with the second action being the occupation of a conference room in the office building of the state’s Attorney General Kris Kobach. McCracken noted Kobach’s “dangerous efforts to make life difficult legally for immigrants” and “his efforts at voter suppression.” She said civil resistance is “not done expecting immediate results—that hardly ever happens. It is much more a matter of conscience and of public witness.”

Stoever said five persons, including himself, Hamrick, and Tom Fox, had crossed the property line at Kansas City’s new nuclear weapons parts plant on May 28 and may have a trial date this fall.

Ann Suellentrop, M.S.R.N., reported on her recent five-week trip to Germany to protest the 20 U.S. B61 nuclear bombs at Buchel Air Force Base. Surveys indicate 93 percent of the German public want the nuclear weapons removed. Suellentrop told the Aug. 5 audience, “The Kansas City Plant is making parts for the new B61-12 life extension program, which will replace the current B61s in a couple of years. That means these new bombs will last into the 2070s!” Suellentrop talked with her colleagues abroad about the plant in Kansas City, and she says, “A group of Europeans want to come to Kansas City next year to protest!”


Slideshow from the Event:

—Jane Stoever is a PeaceWorks-KC member. Spencer Graves, the videographer, and Jim Hannah, the photographer, serve on the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors.