As survivors buried the dead in the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so has time begun to bury their memories. But a small group in Madison persists in its effort to pay homage to the victims and keep alive what they believe is at the core of history's lesson: peace.Monday night, on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, a crowd of about 75 adults and children gathered at the Tenney Park shelter to make origami cranes and launch floating lanterns on the lagoon to commemorate the occasion in an event called Lanterns for Peace.
The cranes and the floating lanterns-decorated with anti-war and peace slogans-are deeply rooted in the peace movement, says Bill Hawkes, one of the event coordinators and member of the Madison Area Peace Coalition which assisted Physicians for Social Responsibility in organizing of the event. The crane is an international symbol of peace and the fragile, easily extinguished floating lantern, a tradition practiced in Japan, carry strong symbolism when set out upon a body of water at the mercy of its surroundings.
But for many, the commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represents more than those two specific incidents, it represents universal themes of the past, present and future.
Like many Americans, Roger Wiseman has relatives who served in World War II and other wars. "Hiroshima wasn't the only city we burned to the ground," says Wiseman, while standing next to his Japanese wife, Mari Iida, and her Japanese friends at the event while they decorated lanterns and folded cranes.
For Iida, the ceremony is a way to remember her ancestor and honor her family who endured WWII in Japan. "My entire city was burned down," says Iida, whose family lost most of its heirlooms when the city of Shizouka was fire bombed. "I have only one picture of my grandma and she passed away after World War II. I want to remember my ancestors, but I don't have any choice. I wish I had their pictures, but I don't, only their stories."
Japanese born Masami Nii Glines, has attended the past 10 years of this 25 year-old tradition at Tenney Park. Her parents lived through the war time in Kyoto, Japan. She recalls that her father made suicide submarine bombs at the age of 14 for the Japanese military, something she finds difficult to imagine now that her son is nearly 14 himself.
The Tenney Park ceremony couldn't have come at a more important time, says Pam Kleiss, non-profit administrator of the Wisconsin chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the primary organizing party. According to Kleiss, this year, for the first time in the 65 years since the bombings, an official representative from the United States attended the 55,000-person commemorative ceremony in Hiroshima.
"Delightful," is the word Hawkes uses to describe the scene of the children launching their little lanterns onto the lagoon and, as he puts it, "establish a physical, and meditative connection with the idea of peace, even if they don't entirely understand the complexities of the issues." As the children happily folded pieces of paper into cranes and colored in peace symbols on their floating lanterns, a tangible connection between the past they never knew and the future they have yet to create was established.
Participants lit the candles in their lanterns and tied them in a string secured to the back of a row boat that carried them to the center of Tenney lagoon where they were released onto the open water. Like many peaceful demonstrations this one was faced with a slight headwind that blew the lanterns back toward shore, to which the persistent participants re-launched them time and again. At the end of the evening, after the food and talks, nearly all of the lanterns were collected and extinguished, except one which had escaped and drifted away to another part of the lagoon, where it was left floating, whether by intent or accident, as the participants dispersed and made their way home.