Hiroshima remembered as worries over US nuclear policy persist

  • Douglas Renick of Florence, center, inspects the origami peace crane he made with the help of Kelley Crisp of the Easthampton Community Coalition, left, during a gathering Aug. 6, 2017 at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton to remember the lives lost from the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sharin Alpert of Shelburne Falls folds paper to make a crane, at right. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Paper lanterns are lined up on a dock prior to being floated out onto Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton Aug. 6, 2017 during a gathering to remember the lives lost from the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Loreto Ruiz of Cambridge, center, plays the Balinese mahogany jambe alongside Jeffrey McLeod, also of Cambridge, playing a traditional Native American drum during a gathering Aug. 6, 2017 at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton to remember the lives lost from the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Mie Williams, left, Tony Silva and Michelle Marroquin, all of Easthampton, share a quiet moment of reflection during a gathering Sunday at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton to remember the lives lost from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Andy Larkin of Northampton paddles a kayak towing paper lanterns around Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton, Sunday, during a gathering to remember the lives lost from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Below left, paper lanterns are lined up on the dock before being towed out on the pond. Below right, Douglas Renick of Florence, center, inspects the origami peace crane he made with the help of Kelley Crisp of the Easthampton Community Coalition, left, as Sharin Alpert of Shelburne Falls, right, folds paper to make a crane. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY PHOTOS

  • Alison Morse of Northampton, left, and Lucy Greenburg of Florence make origami peace cranes during a gathering Aug. 6, 2017 at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton to remember the lives lost from the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Former Easthampton mayor and Mayor for Peace Michael Tautznik speaks during a gathering Aug. 6, 2017 at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton to remember the lives lost from the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

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    Diane Gahres and Eileen Corbeil read excerpts from "Hiroshima" during a gathering Aug. 6, 2017 at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton to remember the lives lost from the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@RebeccaMMullen
Published: 8/7/2017 12:29:06 AM

EASTHAMPTON — “Never again,” chanted the crowd of nearly 100 gathered at the edge of Easthampton’s Nashawannuck Pond Sunday evening.

They were honoring the 450,000 people who died as a result of the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, and calling for change in the U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Sunday marked the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Nagasaki was bombed three days later, on Aug. 9.

The American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts has hosted the remembrance event since 1980, first at the Marina in Northampton, and this year for the first time at Nashawannuck Pond.

Organizer Jeff Napolitano of the AFSC said one of the goals of the evening was to get people to be more involved in movements against nuclear weapons.

“You would not know it by activism in the U.S., but the threat of nuclear war is greater than it has been in the last 60 years,” he told the Gazette. “In other countries, this is a much bigger deal.”

The theme of the night was “The World We Want.” The evening started off with ice cream, origami and “peace braids,” followed by speeches from local organizers including Napolitano, a poetry recitation and finally, floating candle-lit lanterns festooned with slogans calling for peace and reconciliation across the pond.

Leeds resident Ira Helfand is co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, an organization that won the Nobel Prize in 1985 for its work on disarmament.

“The much more important aspect is to use the warning we got in Hiroshima to change the current U.S. policy,” Helfand said.”Currently, our nuclear weapons policy is a hope for good luck. We’d like to think that we’re actively trying to stop the proliferation of these weapons but we’re not.”

Earlier this summer, a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, was adopted by the United Nations. It will be enforced in the fall after it receives 50 signatures at a meeting in September. The United States, along with North Korea, Russia and the rest of the world’s nuclear-armed nations, did not participate in treaty negotiations.

Helfand said that the election of Donald Trump as president did make people start paying more attention. But, he said, the bigger issue is the amount of power given to the president, no matter what the administration.

“The solution here is not to get his finger off the button; we need to get rid of the button,” Helfand said, referencing a popular metaphor used to represent the unchecked military power of the U.S. president.

Many of those present expressed anxiety about nuclear weapons and the need for the U.S. to become a leader in nuclear disarmament.

Leverett resident Hanifah Murfin, said that she had been active against nuclear weapons in the 1960s and ’70s but stopped when the Cold War ended around 1990.

“I thought we were further along with disarmament for a while,” she said wistfully. She resumed her commitment to activism against nuclear weapons after she saw that the U.S. did not sign the recent nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Gus Steevens, a journalist from Southbridge, said he hopes he can bring awareness to the issue of nuclear weapons through his writing.

“The way to solve the problem is to get enough people to pay attention,” he said. “These items are not weapons — they’re items of suicide.”

He is worried about what he sees as an increasingly hawkish tendency in U.S. foreign policy.

“The overall policy seems to be getting more warlike,” he said. “If it doesn’t stop, we’re in serious trouble.”

Ellen Petersen of Easthampton said the election of President Trump gave her a greater sense of urgency of the need for nuclear disarmament. She is the minister at the United Church of Christ in Riverton Connecticut.

“If it wasn’t for our current president, I might not have even paid attention to this. It just feels a little more real,” she said. “This could happen again.”

Former Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik echoed similar sentiments in his speech.

“It could happen right here, it could happen anywhere,” he said of the Hiroshima tragedy.

On Sept. 23 at the Hadley Farms Meeting House, the Pioneer Valley Physicians for Social Responsibility will host a conference on nuclear non-proliferation titled, “Climate Change and the Growing Risk of Nuclear War.”


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