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Sorrow, hope—Memorial Day

An outpouring of sorrow for deaths from nuclear weapons, including hundreds in the Kansas City area, and then prayers for peace marked the PeaceWorks 2024 observance of Memorial Day.
Brother Louis Rodemann prays as he holds one of many crosses made years ago--this one giving the first and middle names, Linda Carolyn, of a worker at the General Services Administration at the former Bannister Federal Complex. She was diagnosed as age 56 with adenocarcinoma cancer.--Photos by Jim Hannah

By Jane Stoever

A gong of mourning called us together on May 27, Memorial Day, at the entry to the Kansas City National Security Campus, where parts are made for nuclear weapons. A bell for peace sent us forward from our gathering. Two different tones, two outpourings of the heart. Bookends for shared prayers and yearnings of the 24 persons attendees and several who sent reflections that we read.

Henry Stoever, who began the PeaceWorks KC Memorial Day observance in 2012,called us together with his gong. He asked us to face the enormity of having all life on this planet in jeopardy from nuclear weapons, to reflect on the sacredness of all life, and to see how we can solve the nuclear crisis. After the gathering, Henry said, “We cry for a vision, for total elimination of all nuclear weapons, for the healing of minds and hearts in regard to all forms of violence.”

Theodore John of Veterans for Peace says, “I ring this bell as a prayer that we will no longer make weapons of war and we will learn to live in peace.”

Theodore John, leader of the KC chapter of Veterans for Peace, explained, “In 2013-14, I made this bell. It was an incredibly hard year for me. I learned that during the first Gulf War, American oil companies were assisting the Kuwaitis in slant-drilling Iraq’s oil. I learned I was the muscle for the Mafia” (in his work for the US military). So Theodore forged his bell for peace and, at our event, rang it 11 times. On Armistice Day in 1918, the armistice took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and bells were rung simultaneously in many countries, for peace, signifying the end of World War I. Theodore told us, “I ring this bell as a prayer that we will no longer make weapons of war and we will learn to live in peace.”

Dave Pack read this prayer from Ira Harritt, who for about 20 years chaired the KC branch of AFSC, the American Friends Service Committee: “Dear God, Maker of all beings, Help us care for your creation, and recognize that we are a part of the beautiful, interdependent web of life. Oh God, Teach us to live in harmony with nature and all humanity. Guide us to turn away from violence and war, and all weapons of destruction, To know that if we harm the other we do harm to ourselves. Raise us above the distinctions and differences which divide us. Send us the peace of thy divine spirit. And teach us that the whole of humanity is one single human family, united in thy perfect being. Amen.”

Bree, of the PeaceWorks Board, had recently returned from DC Days, where she and others lobbied Congress about the dangers of nuclear weapons and energy. She sent this passage that we read Memorial Day: “Today, as we remember all of those who have served, I want us to take time for ourselves to be grateful that we are here. Thankful to those who carried the flame of resistance and strength that we are alive here today. Memorial Day is a day to be more than remembered. It is day we honor and we never forget those who are no longer here.”

Ann Suellentrop, who also just returned from DC Days, warned that Congress is talking about reviving plans to use Yucca Mountain in Nevada for a permanent repository for nuclear waste. See the April 11 story, Ann assailed the blossoming nuclear power industry. See an Associated Press story from March 29,“Uranium is being mined near the Grand Canyon as prices soar and the US pushes for more nuclear power” AP notes, “Work is ramping up just south of the Grand Canyon National Park on a long-contested project that largely has sat dormant” for years, despite outcry from Indigenous Persons and environmentalists.

Also, Ann asked us to call House Speaker Mike Johnson at 202-255-4000 each day before June 6, to ask for RECA, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, to be extended and expanded. RECA expires June 10, and the House is not in session June 6-7.

During our Memorial Day sharing, Connie Spies read this poem from Maril and Jim Crabtree, who were unable to attend:

Connie Spies reads poetry from Maril Crabtree during our Covid years, including, “Our faces are masked. Caution precludes holding hands. All we can do, perhaps, is hold one another in our hearts and pray to a listening universe.” Listening are Dave Pack, left, and Bob Ludlow.
Peace. What IS peace?

It’s as invisible as air

and just as vital.

When peace prevails,

the soul can stretch,

the mind can relax,

the heart can beat,

safe and unharmed.

To paraphrase the song,

“All we need is the peace

that we breathe

and to love one another.
Jim Hannah says, “Let us … lend our small weight toward the tipping point of a world free of war and its weapons.”—Photo by Jane Stoever

Jim Hannah shared his reflection, “Still,” posted at His reflection ends, in part:

Still … the questions remain:

Can we yet, in hope believing, envision this bean field turned from death-dealing, and restored to life-giving? …

Let us, individually and collectively, lend our small weight toward the tipping point of a world free of war and its weapons.

It can be so. There are ultimate forces for good in this world and cosmos that we know not of, inviting us into creative partnership.

So in this moment, may we, believing in Life and Love, simply be still

—Jane Stoever is part of the PeaceWorks KC Communications Team. © 2024, Jane Stoever, Ann Suellentrop, Henry Stoever, Jim Hannah, Maril and Jim Crabtree, Bree, Theodore John, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License

Led by Henry Stoever, standing at right with blue cap, we circled for our sharings, hopings.

Jane Stoever says the wooden statue of Mary of Nagasaki, in the Nagasaki cathedral, was struck Aug. 9, 1945, and only Mary’s head remained. The eyes of the statue were blasted away—and many victims’ eyes melted from the heat of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

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