On 75th anniversary, Lawrence residents gather, bells toll in honor of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb victims and survivors

photo by: Lauren Fox

A group gathers downtown Thursday morning in remembrance of the bombing of Hiroshima, which occurred 75 years ago. Hiroko Komiya is pictured second from left, and Bob Swan is pictured fifth from left.

The bells of First United Methodist Church and Trinity Episcopal Church tolled for one minute at 8:15 a.m. Thursday in honor of the victims of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

A group of Lawrence residents who were gathered outside the churches held signs and said their goal was to remember the victims of the world’s first atomic bombs and to promote peace.

“Today we are here to remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” organizer Bob Swan Jr. said, “but also to take a look at where we are in these unprecedented times because there are numerous crises facing us. But we want to remember today the Hibakusha, the survivors of these two cities.”

Seventy-five years ago, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. The official anniversary of the bombing took place at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, as Hiroshima is 14 hours ahead of Lawrence. The U.S. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9. Together, the two bombs killed around 300,000 people, according to The History Channel, counting both those who died instantly and those who died from radiation and other effects of the explosions. The devastation of the two bombings led to Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.

In remembrance of the victims of Nagasaki, the downtown church bells will also ring Sunday at 11:02 a.m., the time of that bombing.

Hiroko Komiya, a Lawrence resident who is originally from Japan, shared a story about a childhood friend’s experience with the bombing of Hiroshima. Komiya said that in the fourth grade she had a friend whose mother was very ill.

“One day she said to me softly, ‘I don’t want to get married,'” Komiya recalled. When Komiya asked why, her friend told her that her mother had leukemia and she believed she would one day also get leukemia.

“She told me, ‘My mom was in Hiroshima and saw the light,'” Komiya said. Her friend’s mother died a few days later. This story has stuck with Komiya throughout her life.

“I would ask every one of you for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. We have to stop this ill-fated race on nuclear weapons,” she said to the group.

On Tuesday, Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda signed a proclamation declaring Aug. 6, 2020, as Hiroshima Day and Aug. 9, 2020, as Nagasaki Day.

“I … express solidarity with and commitment to the global effort to carry forward the legacy of Hibakusha, the atomic bomb survivors, who demand the abolition of nuclear weapons and an end to the source of war,” the proclamation reads.

During the event, Swan mentioned the 1983 movie “The Day After,” which was filmed in Lawrence and is about a fictional nuclear attack in Kansas City.

“We are so fortunate that this city has only had cinematic destruction,” Swan said in reference to the film. He said that he could see the filming for the movie take place from his office building downtown and that his 8-year-old daughter was with him one day as they watched actor Jason Robards walking through burned-up cars on Massachusetts Street. Swan’s daughter asked, “Daddy, will we ever have a nuclear war?”

“That’s when I decided personally that I had to get involved,” he said.


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