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Peace House Commemorates 75th Anniversary Of Atomic Bombings In Hiroshima, Nagasaki

Peace House member Estelle Voeller led a water ceremony to "sooth the souls of the departed" in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the 1945 nuclear bombing that killed thousands.
Erik Neumann/JPR
Peace House member Estelle Voeller led a water ceremony to "sooth the souls of the departed" in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in commemoration of the 1945 nuclear bombing that killed tens of thousands.

The sound of a gong struck at 8:15 on Thursday morning marked the moment, 75 years ago, when tens of thousands of Japanese were killed in a nuclear blast.

After a minute of silence Estelle Voeller, a member of Peace House, ladled water over rocks in a water ceremony meant to “sooth the souls of the departed” in Japan after the bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki three days later.

The social justice organization, Peace House, has been holding ceremonies to commemorate the nuclear bombing in Japan and emphasize the goal of denuclearization for over 30 years. Around 50 people gathered in Ashland wearing masks and social distancing.

“We’re here to affirm life. But we’re also here because of the incineration of over 80,000 people immediately after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima,” said Elizabeth Hallett, executive director of Peace House during a speech to the crowd.

“These victims were victims of a human and global nightmare,” she said. “The belief that conflict could be solved by war, by bombing, by threatening others with bravado of those who are fascinated by and in love with the best killing technology.”

She said that in addition to honoring those who died during the atomic bomb blasts, this anniversary is a chance to raise people's awareness about the threat of nuclear war.

Denuclearization was “the first passion” of Peace House when it was formed in 1982, according to Hallett. That was during a worldwide nuclear freeze movement.

Since then the group’s priorities have grown to include issues like gun violence, economic justice, and gay rights but a central focus remains on questioning the value of military funding when resources could benefit the hungry, mentally ill and homeless.

Before the pandemic, Peace House fed people experiencing food insecurity one day a week. Since March, that’s grown to giving out food four days per week to people who are hungry or who have lost their jobs, Hallett said.

“So, it’s pretty real that we are misallocating our resources for militarism,” she said. “Peace House has been questioning that since the beginning.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.