Edited by Cole Harrison
Peace activists in 14 locations across Massachusetts held commemorative events August 6-9 to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the U.S. atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 220,000 people, nearly all civilians, in 1945. The activists also demanded the United States sign the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and called on Congress to support H.Res.77, a bill filed by Rep. Jim McGovern which supports the treaty and also the Back from the Brink agenda, a series of 5 incremental steps the United States can take to reduce the danger of nuclear war. As a new Cold War between Russia, China, and the U.S. gains momentum, and in the wake of the release of the blockbuster film Oppenheimer, the public’s attention has increasingly returned this year to the danger of nuclear war and the need for new policies to keep us safe from catastrophe.
Activists stood out with signs Aug 5. An event at the Bridgewater Library featuring artist and curator Melvin Hardy was held by the Bridgewater International City of Peace on Aug. 9 in collaboration with Massachusetts Peace Action.
Around 35 people, about half children and the rest adults, gathered at the Easthampton Library and then walked down to Nashawannuck Pond, carrying the lanterns that the children had decorated and led by Sister Clare and Brother Towbee of the New England Peace Pagoda. At the Pond, they tied the lanterns to the kayak paddled by 13 year old Hiya Patel who towed them to the middle of the pond while Ted Stock rang the Peace Bell made of used US ordinance that he brought back from his tour of duty in the Vietnam war. It was the 39th consecutive year that the lanterns have been used in Northampton and Easthampton for the commemoration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki begun by Frances Crowe in 1974. In 2017 the ceremony moved from Paradise Pond at Smith College to Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton. The lanterns were refurbished this year by the children in the Easthampton Library Youth Program. As has become tradition since 2017, Mt Tom Ice Cream provided “Peace Cream” which was served at the library, and Valley Paddlers provided the kayak. – Merri Ansara
A small group of activists gathered on the Greenfield Common to remind passersby of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. – Pat Hynes
32 people attended a vigil at Park Square organized by Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice. – Don Lathrop
The Hiroshima Day event drew 40-50 enthusiastic participants at Springfield City Hall. It was co-sponsored by Greater Springfield Campaign Nonviolence, Pax Christi, JustFaith Ministries, and the Agape Community. Dr. Ira Helfand was the keynote speaker, and Sr. Mary Caritas, SP, received a proclamation by the Springfield City Council from its President, Jesse Lederman, to honor her lifetime of working for peace as she celebrates her 100th birthday this month. The lead organizer was Sr. Annette McDermott, SSJ.
The Walpole Peace and Justice Group held a peace vigil on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, “Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never Again,” and calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Participants observed a moment of silence to remember the lives lost and the people who suffered from the bombing. We read Thomas Merton’s poem: “Original Child Bomb.” The vigil also honored the life of Ora McGuire, a resident of Walpole who devoted her life to peace making, including the creation of thousands of origami peace cranes. The vigil called for the United States to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and to redirect military spending to social needs. – Phil Czachorowski
In Watertown, 50 activists organized by Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment held signs and banners calling for a ban on nuclear weapons in busy Watertown Square, then moved to the MDC dock on the Charles River. I made remarks calling for an end to the nuclear arms race and the new cold war. Peter Metz, Andre Sheldon, State Rep. Steve Owens, and other activists made comments, Jeanne Trubek gathered signatures on Ceasefire in Ukraine postcards, and Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin and a guitarist played meditative songs as Caroline Bays and her husband Bill deployed candle boats in the river. The Boston Globe reported on the event, which was MC’d by town councilor Tony Palomba. – Cole Harrison
In Worcester, 46 people attended a Hiroshima Remembrance at Worcester’s Peace Park, organized by Citizens for Nonviolent Solutions. The program included readings about the victims of the Trinity Test as well as Hiroshima, Pope Francis’s remarks from Hiroshima (Nov. 2019) in which he basically called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, a reflection from a Zen priest, and the launching of floating lanterns on a small pool of water. The group members signed postcards to Senators Markey and Warren calling for a Ceasefire in Ukraine. – Claire Schaeffer-Duffy