Hastings Against War stages its annual Hiroshima Day commemoration

Thursday saw the annual Hiroshima Day commemoration in Alexandra Park, the event was first held by Hastings Against War (HAW) in 2005 and has been staged annually since 2007.

People gathered to remember those who lost their lives in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago. An estimated 185,000 people died as a consequence of the bombs dropped by the US air-force. Each year those killed are remembered in ceremonies around the world as people affirm that such nuclear attacks should never be repeated. 

With this year’s event being held under the shadow of the global pandemic, and with far greater restrictions in place than before, the ceremony was very different to previous ones. There were no speeches or singing.

The lanterns around the edge of the Alexandra Park lake.

Traditional Japanese floating lanterns are usually released on the lake at sunset, with someone venturing into the shallow water to retrieve these later, something that has always been done without incident. However the increased restrictions this year meant the lanterns were placed at the edge of the lake, becoming more conspicuous as the day darkened.  

The 75th anniversary of the bombings has meant the activity around Hiroshima Day has been given an added urgency this year. That activity has included one of the Atomic bomb survivors (or hibakusha) Setsuko Thurlow writing a letter to Boris Johnson and other world leaders urging them to support the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Setsuko was a 13-year-old schoolgirl when the bomb exploded above her community of Hiroshima. In the letter she writes that: “a bright summer morning turned to dark twilight with smoke and dust rising in the mushroom cloud, dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water and receiving no medical care at all.”

She writes that most of her classmates were: “burned to death alive. I can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help,” she writes. 

Thurlow works alongside the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 and was pivotal to the United Nations adopting a treaty for a ban of nuclear weapons. A majority of 122 nations approved the treaty document in 2017, Britain not being among them. The treaty will enter into force when 50 nations have ratified the treaty. To date 44 have signed it. 

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