By Barb Arland-Fye
I had forgotten the significance of this week’s publication date — Aug. 6 — until an e-mail arrived from the Clinton Franciscan Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking.
On this date 64 years ago, the United States of America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and three days later a second one on Nagasaki, decimating both cities and the people who lived in them.
Years later, as a Catholic grade school student, I watched documentaries showing disfigured children and adults in Japan being cared for in the aftermath of those twin tragedies involving the first nuclear weapons of mass destruction. An image comes to mind of a mother lovingly bathing her crippled child; I remember thinking of my own mother being in the place of that mother. A sense of sorrow filled me.
Some years later, I received a copy of “Hiroshima” by John Hersey from one of the most persistent, faith-based peace advocates I know — Lauren Ashley Smith of Clinton. A Clinton Franciscan Associate, he often sends me his essays on the earth-shattering power of nuclear weapons and the inevitability of humankind’s destruction unless Christians refocus their attention on being more like Christ.
Hersey tells the story of “Hiroshima” in gripping detail and journalistic style. I felt myself being absorbed into the pages of the story, which Hersey told through the memories of survivors. I felt their agony and bewilderment as they recounted in vivid detail the hours after that cataclysmic event.
In the e-mail from the Clinton Franciscans, I read the story of a 12-year-old girl from Hiroshima who developed leukemia 10 years after the atomic bomb struck her city when she was 2 years old. Hoping to get well, the little girl began folding paper cranes. If she were able to fold 1,000 of them, she would get a wish, according to Japanese folklore. She died after folding a few hundred cranes. Her friends completed the task in her memory. Folding paper cranes has become a tradition for remembering those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to the Peace Action West Web site.
Peace Action West invites all of us to fold a paper crane in memory of the victims of the atomic bombing. The organization even provides a video on how to do it. You can view it at: (http://blog.peaceactionwest.org/2009/07/31/remembrance-a-powerful-word-that-can-lead-to-a-better-world/).
I’ll attempt to make a peace crane or two, and say a prayer that has become a part of my nightly ritual and will remain so as long as war exists: “Dear Lord, Please guide each of us in this world to be peacemakers and to grow at peace with ourselves and one another.”