Hiroshima bombing remembered in Oregon’s ‘Peace Trees’ campaign

SALEM, Ore. – Hideko Tamura Snider was a 10-year-old girl in Hiroshima, Japan when the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the city on August 6, 1945, during World War II.

On Wednesday, she described the horrors of that day as the guest of honor at a ceremony marking the culmination of a four-year campaign in Oregon to plant saplings from the seeds of trees that have also survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

An Oregon official involved in the campaign told the audience that recognizing the continued threat of nuclear weapons is particularly relevant today, with Russian President Vladimir Putin make veiled threats to use them in his war against Ukraine.

“So four years ago we thought it was us looking back at a past where atomic weapons were something that happened a long time ago. And today I think that’s a lot more relevant to us as we sit in this room today,” said Jim Gersbach, Oregon Community Trees board member and spokesperson for the state Forest Department.

In Hiroshima, arborist Chikara Horiguchi began growing saplings from seed in 1995. A total of 170 trees in Hiroshima that survived the bomb are believed to still be alive.

“I believe the best way for me to talk about peace is through A-bombed trees. A-bombed trees are symbolic of destruction and recovery,” Horiguchi says in a video for Green Legacy Hiroshima, which has sent seeds and saplings from surviving trees to dozens of countries around the world, including Chile, Ireland and Ethiopia. Green Legacy Hiroshima volunteers started collecting the seeds in 2011.

Arborist Mike Oxendine, of Ashland, Oregon, obtained the seeds from Green Legacy Hiroshima and germinated them. Oregon Community Trees and the Forest Department worked together to find homes for the trees. Communities everywhere have responded — coastal towns like Seaside, the mountain town of Bend in central Oregon, Hood River along the Columbia River, and La Grande in the east.

A total of 51 trees have been planted around the Pacific Northwest state, the densest concentration of Hiroshima Peace Trees outside of Japan, Gersbach said. Most are ginkgo trees with a few persimmons – both known for their hardiness.

Speaking at the ceremony at Oregon Department of Forestry headquarters, Tamura Snider said the effort and those who support it symbolized “ways to come together in peace, looking with great hope to the future of this world, rather than perish in the horrible nuclear”. blast.”

She described the morning of August 6, 1945, hearing an air raid alert and then a green light. But then the atomic bomb exploded in a blinding flash that shook the ground and destroyed buildings. His mother was in another part of town and perished. Alone, Tamura Snider crawled out of the ruins of the house in complete darkness and began to “run away from the fire and the terrible things in Hiroshima”.

“I walked and walked, and I couldn’t move,” she said. “And I collapsed in the middle of a small path in an open rice field. And I said to myself, ‘I don’t have the strength to take one more step, and if I die here, I have to.’

But she looked up at the sky, and saw a slice of blue sky “and that changed everything. I felt resurrected.

At the ceremony in Oregon, Tamura Snider, who emigrated to the United States decades ago and lives in Medford, stepped out to one of the peace trees, a ginkgo, on the grounds of the Department of forests, along with dozens of other people. She bowed to the tree and watered it with a ladle. Others lined up to spray it as well.

About 140,000 people, including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses, died up to December 31, 1945 from the Hiroshima bombings, representing 40% of Hiroshima’s population of 350,000 before the attack .

“These peace trees not only convey a message of peace from the people of Hiroshima, they are also symbols of survival and resilience in the face of unimaginable destruction,” said Cal Mukumoto, state forester of Hiroshima. Oregon. He said they give him hope that Oregonians can persevere through difficult times.

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