Japanese group tells of atomic bomb's fury Delegation speaks in New Windsor

August 16, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

As tears rolled down her cheeks, the woman from Hiroshima told an audience at the New Windsor Service Center about the survivors of the atomic blast that leveled her city in 1945.

Nobuko Taguchi, 21, is one of three women from the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima carrying a message of peace to the United States.

She apologized for crying and spoke softly of Morihisa Shimomura, whose parents survived the atomic bomb attack on Aug. 6, 1945, but died shortly after his birth from "the atomic sickness." From infancy on, he battled birth defects and cancerous tumors. "When he died in 1988, he cried, 'Why is my life so terrible?' " said a sobbing Ms. Taguchi, who passed out paper cranes -- symbols of peace -- to her audience Friday night.

She said she and the others are touring the United States because the world "should continue to hear about the survivors."

"So many of the survivors are still suffering and people forget," said Tomoko Maekawa, 46. "Even in Japan, they forget. Soon we will have a big ceremony marking the 50th anniversary but it shouldn't be the last time to tell the story."

As a volunteer interpreter and guide at the peace museum in Nagasaki, Ms. Maekawa helps survivors tell their "sad stories to visitors and to the next generations.

"I have many close friends who are survivors," she said. "I want to tell the American people those survivors are still suffering, physically and mentally."

More than 1 million people, including many Japanese students and American tourists, visit the Nagasaki museum each year.

"At first the Americans are embarrassed and hesitate to come in," she said. "After we talk, we feel comfortable. My idea of peace is to become friends. That is the first step."

She, Ms. Taguchi and Chieko Irie, 45, are "traveling all around the states to meet as many people as possible and make the circle of friendship bigger," Ms. Maekawa said. "Heart to heart is the most important touch for global peace."

For three weeks, they are serving as Peace Exchange Ambassadors to the United States as guests of the World Friendship Program, an international project sponsored by several American and Japanese churches.

Alternating visits take place each August among small groups from Japan and the United States. The aim is to promote international understanding and world peace, said Carl Beckwith, who directed the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima last year and served as host to the visitors during their weekend stay in Carroll County.

The women said they have found America to be a "huge country with green trees and friendly people," who are receptive to their message, Ms. Maekawa said.

As part of her presentation, Ms. Maekawa outlined a brief history of the bombing. She assigned no blame, using "they" or "the pilot" in relating the details of the attack that destroyed her city.

Throughout its history, the port of Nagasaki served as Japan's gateway to other countries. In 1945, it became "the fiery gateway to nuclear power," she said. "It must never happen again."

She said she fears that the end of the Cold War has brought a sense of complacency.

"Actually, there are so many conflicts going on, especially in the Third World, where developing nuclear weapons are a threat to all of us."

The women were "excited" to visit the New Windsor Service Center, "where so many people are working for refugees around the world," said Ms. Maekawa.

Ms. Irie urged everyone to join efforts to ban nuclear testing.

"What we are doing may be small but it will lead to our big goal: peace," she said.

An English teacher, she said she hopes the lessons from survivors' experiences will eventually "abolish nuclear weapons and make peace.

"If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children," Ms. Irie said. "We start with goodwill and kindness."

Ms. Maekawa, who met with Mikhail Gorbachev at the Global Peace Forum in Nagasaki in April, would like to take her peace message to President Clinton. A few days ago the women stopped in Little Rock, Ark.

"We expected to see the president at the airport," she said with a laugh, although she knew Mr. Clinton was in Denver at the time.

In Arkansas, the women toured the site of Heifer Project, a program that provides domestic animals to developing countries. Ms. Taguchi was impressed with the numbers of young volunteers.

"Now, I am thinking of volunteering to work in developing countries," she said.

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