Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008

Survivors of atomic bombs to speak downtown

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On Saturday, exactly 63 years after American troops dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, Yasuko Ota will tell Frederick residents how she survived Aug. 9, 1945.

Ota, 78, and Akinori Hara, a 66-year-old Hiroshima resident, are making Frederick their last stop on a speaking tour organized by The Washington Peace Center, a grassroots activist peace organization in Washington, D.C.

Since Monday, Ota and Hara have been speaking at churches, youth conferences and radio stations in Washington, D.C., and Maryland to commemorate the anniversaries.

Women in Black Frederick, a chapter of an international women's movement dedicated to non-violence, has partnered with the Washington Peace Center to bring the survivors to Frederick.

John Steinbach, a founding member of the D.C. Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee, said the survivors are talking about their experiences as a warning for the world to never use nuclear weapons again.

The atomic bombs ordered by President Harry S. Truman killed more than 200,000 people by the end of 1945. For 28 years, the committee a project of the Washington Peace Center has brought a delegation of survivors, or "Hibakusha," to talk about their experiences with Americans.

"Hibakusha" is a Japanese word used to describe living survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The word is also used for all victims of radiation and formally recognized by the United Nations, Steinbach said.

Andrea Norouzi, a member of Women in Black Frederick, said the survivors' visit is "a call to end nuclear weapons."

"It's not about those days. It's about now and our future," she added.

Norouzi also noted the historical ties between Frederick and the Washington Peace Center. From July 1959 to March 1961, peace activists staged a vigil outside Fort Detrick to oppose its research and testing of biological weapons.

After the vigil ended, the organizers moved to Washington, D.C. and founded the Washington Peace Center as it is known today.