NEW YORK – Hundreds of people gathered at a memorial event in downtown Manhattan on Sunday, the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the Tohoku region.
The interfaith memorial service for victims of the March 11, 2011, disasters featured prayers and chanting by the Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, a Japanese Buddhist priest based in New York, and other leaders from major religions, including Shintoism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The service at Judson Memorial Church was preceded by a memorial walk from nearby Washington Square Park, where a moment of silence was held by participants standing in a circle at 2:46 p.m., the local time in Japan when the magnitude 9.0 quake occurred off the northeastern coastline of Honshu a year ago.
“As we observe the one year memorial gathering, we remember all the precious lives which were lost by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and remember the suffering and pain that many experienced,” Nakagaki said in his remarks.
“We also need to be mindful of what we can do, and what we can do for healing and recovery of northeast Japan with our best wishes and prayers.”
Michael Byczek, a 55-year-old participant in the procession and church service, said, “I want to remember the young people who were lost and the others still suffering.
“I am saying I am in support of them (by attending the memorial event).”
Among dignitaries attending were New York City Comptroller John Liu and Shigeyuki Hiroki, Japanese consul general in New York.
During the service, the U.S.-Japan Memorial Chorus and other musicians gave performances, while participants made flower and incense offerings in the Japanese tradition.
The ceremony, sponsored by the New York Japanese American Lions Club, was one of several events held Sunday in New York to commemorate the victims of the largest natural disasters to hit Japan in the postwar era, which left more than 15,000 people dead and some 3,000 others still unaccounted for.
Also, to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear crisis that the quake and tsunami triggered, more than 100 people, including children, took to the streets of downtown Manhattan, calling for abolition of atomic power.
Attending the march toward Central Park, Victoria Rosen, 60, said, “What happened in Japan is a clear sign there is no such thing as safe nuclear energy. . . . To protect lives . . . we have to find alternatives.”