Today marks the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It is the anniversary of a bombing that targeted school children, pre-school children and infants, as well as women and the elderly.
When you think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, think of innocent children.
Sadako was such a child, only two years old when the bomb exploded over Hiroshima. As she grew older, she became a bright student and a fast runner, but ten years after the bombing she was hospitalized with radiation-induced leukemia.
Japanese legend has it that one’s wish will be granted by folding 1,000 paper cranes. Sadako folded these paper cranes in the hope of fulfilling her wish to regain her health and achieve a peaceful world. She wrote this poem, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”
Sadako’s life was cut short by the bomb, but her dream of peace has lived on. She did not live to become a wife, mother and grandmother. She did not live to fulfill her dreams. But her memory has lived on in the hearts of children around the globe. Today there is a statue of Sadako in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and throughout the world people express their wish for peace by folding paper cranes.
Today we gather in this beautiful peace garden named for Sadako and commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with our 18th annual Sadako Peace Day. We remember Sadako and the countless innocent victims of war and renew our commitment to abolishing nuclear weapons and ending war as a human institution.
This may seem utopian, but it is also necessary. It is our common responsibility and it is the daily work of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations sent this message to Hiroshima today:
“The elimination of nuclear weapons is not just a visionary goal, but the most reliable way to prevent their future use.
“People understand that nuclear weapons cannot be used without indiscriminate effects on civilian populations….
“Such weapons have no legitimate place in our world. Their elimination is both morally right and a practical necessity in protecting humanity.
“The more countries view nuclear weapons as unacceptable and illegitimate, the easier it will be to solve related problems such as proliferation or their acquisition and use by terrorists….
“In remembering those lost, in recognizing the hibakusha, and in considering the legacy we will leave to future generations, I urge all here today to continue your noble work for a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
We are honored to have present today a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, Kikuko Otake, who will share with us her memories of what she experienced as a young child. We also have wonderful poets and musicians and a beautiful, quiet garden for reflection.
Thank you for being with us today and for your compassion for those who have been the victims of war, your commitment to building a more peaceful world free of nuclear weapons, and your courage to take action to change the world.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.