"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Sunday, June 19, 2011

HIROSHIMA - One week ago today

FLASH: The Friendship Center just posted pictures of the Unveiling Ceremony and the Party afterward, complete with great shots of the sashimi boat (described below)!
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is in the center. I have marked the location of Mum's monument.
     My mother does not have a grave. Her body was cremated when her spirit left it in 1990 and Tim, Ted, and I scattered her ashes throughout the Glen near Yellow Springs, Ohio.  
     Last Sunday, as nine of us gently unveiled the monument built in her honor and I saw her face, radiant with the gentleness and serenity that had characterized her, I started to weep. I loved her, missed her, and I realized that we finally had a place, a permanent place, to acknowledge and grieve her. I don't know why that mattered but it did.
     That place is in the south-east corner of Hiroshima's Peace Park, beside a path which is scheduled to be linked to a footbridge over the nearest river, becoming the main entrance to the park. Bushes separate this area, where there are also monuments to two other foreigners, Norman Cousins and Dr. Marcel Junod, from the flat expanse where the Peace Memorial Museum stands.
     For this occasion, microphones were set up in the path in front of the monument. To either side of the microphones, filling the path, were rows of chairs.
Guests to the right of them. . .

. . . guests to the left of them . . .
   The ceremony began with a choir singing "Kyouchikutou no Komoriuta" (Lullaby of Oleander). There was a greeting and a moment of silent prayer for Mum, for A-bomb victims and for the radiation-exposed people of Fukushima.
     There were many speakers--among them, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima; a "specially-appointed" Professor of Hiroshima University; the Director of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation; the reading of a congratulatory telegram from the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture; Ms Mizuhoko Kotani, author of Hiroshima Pilgrimage, a book about my mother; Director of the World Friendship Center Larry Sims; Director of the Peace Memorial Museum Steve Leeper; and Director of the Monument Erecting Committee Hiromu Morishita, who presented certificates to representatives of the stonemasons who carved the monument and the trucking company which delivered it and set it up. (I gave Tony, a trucker, an approving glance when my interpreter murmured that to me.)
Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima

Ms Kotani, author, Hiroshima Pilgrimage

Larry and JoAnn Sims, Co-Directors, WFC

Hiromu Morishita, President, Monument Erecting Committee
     Before my turn, we gathered to tug on the red ropes and unveil the monument. I teared up--or rather, down. Behind us the choir sang, "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."*

     Mentally reviewing my talk during the night I suspected I might have to fight tears during the delivery so I chose not to wear mascara. I will let you see me crying but I will spare you more than one picture of me reading my speech. I never realized until I saw myself in so many dozens of pictures from so many angles that I need a diet, exercise, a face lift, and serious plastic surgery.
The eyes of NHK and 3 major newspapers were upon me.
     Tony said I got applause. I don't remember it. Jerry said I got a standing ovation--"at least one," he amended bashfully. I was told that at my words, "NO MORE HIROSHIMA! NO MORE NAGASAKI! NO MORE FUKUSHIMA!" there was a patter of applause but the mayor, without a flicker of emotion, was seen to very slightly shake his head. (I didn't know until afterward that a nuclear reactor proposed near Hiroshima is causing controversy right now.)  

Children encircled Tony, Jerry, and me with paper crane leis. . .
     After my talk we were approached by three children in school uniforms who brought paper crane leis to put around our necks and another who placed a garden of lilies and roses in my arms (which I did not think to turn so their beauty would show to the audience through the clear plastic).
. . . and filled my arms with flowers.
 I had not read ahead in the program to "Presentation of the folded paper crane Lei and the Bunch of flowers." I was not expecting any of this generosity. I felt as Kate Middleton must have six weeks before, a commoner being treated like royalty.

     The choir sang "The Life of the World is the Heart of Hiroshima." Someone read a poem by the late Dr. Tomin Harada, not only a good friend of our family's but author of two books about Mum and creator of a hybrid rose in her honor. (The Japanese for rose is "bara" so it is the "Barbara Bara.") 
Behind us, a choir sang. (This is half of them.)

     Through all of this, the media swirled around us, aiming, focusing, waving to turn our heads, cocking, clicking. I noticed that some of their faces, which had been impassive when I smiled at them before my talk, were now smiling back at me.
As I feared, I couldn't do justice to interviews in Japanese.
     They mobbed me afterward. As I'd feared, I wasn't able to say much. NHK, Japan's national TV company, covered the ceremony that evening in a 3-4 minute clip. We haven't seen it yet but we're told they focused on my words about my mother, not those tying Hiroshima to Fukushima. Two of the three newspapers represented, Asahi and Chugoku, published articles about the event on June 14.
     From the national Asahi Shimbun: “Jessica said, ‘I am so grateful for their desire to erect the monument near the Ground Zero to a woman from America which dropped the atomic bomb. And she stressed ‘Radiation doesn’t distinguish between war and peace.  No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki! No more Fukushima!'”
     From Hiroshima's Chugoku Shimbun: "Jessica vowed, 'My mother tried to convey the message of hibakusha to the world.  From now on, we will try to convey it to the next generation'.” 
     Lots of reporters and others asked for copies of my speech. Publications in which it will appear include the journal for the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a Mothers for Peace bulletin out of London, and the WFC newsletter. One man who attended said an anime company is considering doing an anime version of my mother's life!
Sashimi boat
     There was a reception afterward at a nearby hotel. In addition to the Sunday buffet, there was a magnificent boat load (well, half a boat load) of every variety of sashimi (raw fish). This photo doesn't do it justice but note the fish thrusting its head and tail artistically out of the middle of the bounty.
     That night at the World Friendship Center two reporters called and left messages. There were six of us--all Americans--there at the time but we let the calls go to voice mail because none of us felt adequate to take a call in Japanese. One of the calls was from Kyodo News Service, Japan's equivalent to our Associated Press. In trying to figure out how to play the messages back so we could copy down the names and phone numbers, we accidentally erased them. So we lost those opportunities.
     But as with everything related to this event, it was in God's hands.
*Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
words and music by Ed McCurdy

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

I dreamed I saw a mighty room
Filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

And when the paper was all signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful pray'rs were prayed

And the people in the streets below
Were dancing 'round and 'round
While swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd never dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

TRO-©1950,1951 & 1955 Almanac Music, Inc.
New York, N.Y. Copyrights renewed
Used by permission

Photos by Drew Tanabe/World Friendship Center


  1. I was so touched...in so many ways...I wish for all the world we could have come. I was so happy for you, your mom and your family - sincerely happy. You were so blessed to have her as your mother. what light, what an example...I feel very privileged to have gotten to know you and learn about your mom. by the way..you look FINE in your pictures!!!!! You rarely see pictures of ME online....cameras add ten lbs to my already chubby body!!!

  2. Wow, inspirational. Amazing. I think it's great (fabulous? lovely? helpful?) that you now have a 'place' to visit your mum. You look great and what you said was great. I missed it on NHK :( Haven't had the tv on much since we've been back. xxx