When Lane County residents gather this year to solemnly commemorate the dropping of atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, they’ll also plant the seeds of rejuvenation and hope. This year, a Green Legacy Peace Tree will be planted near Nobel Peace Park — “a silent ambassador for peace and nuclear disarmament.” “It’s a small sapling that was grown from the seed of a persimmon tree that survived the bombing in Hiroshima,” Michael Carrigan, a senior staffer at the Community Alliance of Lane County, said.
Green Legacy Hiroshima protects and spreads the seeds and saplings of trees that survived Hiroshima’s A-Bomb. The trees are planted in public parks, city centers, college campuses and botanical gardens around the world.
The annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration — from 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alton Baker Park’s small shelter, near the duck pond and park entrance — will have speakers, including former Mayor Kitty Piercy, a call to action to abolish nuclear weapons, drumming by Eugene Taiko, traditional Japanese Obon Dancing, music from the Yujin Gakuen Children’s Peace Choir and harp music from David Helfand.
“The final thing, which just brings tears to my eyes, is what we do at dusk,” Carrigan said. “We float candle lanterns on the duck pond to honor those who died when we dropped the atom bombs in Japan.”
On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, U.S. forces released “Little Boy,” a 9,700-pound uranium gun-type bomb, over Hiroshima. Roughly half of the city’s population immediately was killed or injured — around 70,000 people died as a result of the initial blast, heat and radiation effects. By the end of 1945, the lingering effects of the bomb pushed the Hiroshima death toll to more than 100,000. The five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects took hold.
Three days after Hiroshima, a plutonium implosion bomb, “Fat Man,” was dropped over Nagasaki. By January 1946, the number of deaths approached 70,000. The death count then doubled within five years.
“It’s especially relevant today,” Carrigan said. “It’s especially pertinent because we have a president who has said he’s willing to use nuclear weapons. And he has his finger on the nuclear trigger.”
The event’s primary goal is to honor those who died when the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it always includes a call to action to abolish nuclear weapons — an act Carrigan finds to be far from outdated.
“It’s more relevant than anytime in my memory,” Carrigan said. “The (anti-nuclear) movement is still alive today, it’s not as apparent as it was 30 years ago, but it’s still happening. People all over the world are saying no to nuclear weapons.”