NEW YORK – Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders gathered Wednesday in Manhattan to mark the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing with a ceremony featuring musicians and a survivor of the blast who now lives in New York state.
At precisely 7:15 p.m. New York time — coinciding with the exact moment the nuclear blast occurred seven decades ago — a peace bell was rung by more than a dozen attendees, including Tomiko Morimoto West, 83. She lived through the bomb’s aftermath as a young girl.
“I am here. I survived and I live a peaceful life,” she said. “I live on an airplane path (near her home in upstate New York) and when I look up and see the same kind of blue sky in August I don’t have to be afraid and that is peace.”
As a 13-year-old, she was working at a factory for the war effort and saw the B-29 that dropped the bomb. She remembers a tremendous “flash” and the debris that fell from the sky. West sadly recalls the fight she had that day with her mother, whom she never saw again.
The event this year drew a crowd of about 300 organizers and participants.
It was the 22nd time that the Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York and vice chairman of the Interfaith Center of New York, has led the annual ceremony.
The present state of the world, he said, makes it crucial to reflect on the past to prevent further tragedy.
“The hibakusha are getting old and their average age is over 80,” he said. “At the same time in Japan we are starting to forget lots of parts of the war.”
The three-hour ceremony included music performed by pop star Shinji Harada. The Hiroshima native was accompanied by the Cocolo Japanese Gospel Choir.
Jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi played an original composition, a piece for Hiroshima. She performed with her saxophone player husband Lew Tabackin.
The program ended with a silent walk to the Imagine Circle in nearby Central Park, which was built in honor of the late Beatle and peace advocate John Lennon.
Those taking part carried lights and lanterns to the famous spot.