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‘Never again’: Corvallis remembers Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombings

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Soft golden light lit the Van Buren Bridge as more than 50 people watched a group of kayaks float downstream. Many onlookers held candles, quietly observing the lanterns tied to each boat. 

This shared act of solidarity was one of several moments spent remembering lives lost in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Corvallis' Riverfront Commemorative Park on Thursday, Aug. 4. 

“We try to center this commemoration around the slogan, ‘never again,’ to try to remind people about the danger of war and the terrible weapons we have in our arsenal,” said Aleita Hass-Holcombe, volunteer and executive director of the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center. 

It has been 77 years since the U.S. detonated atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945. Although estimates differ, the blasts killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people. Many died instantaneously, but survivors would later suffer from leukemia, cancer and other diseases due to radiation exposure. 

Even today, nuclear weapons continue to impact the Pacific Northwest. Pat Hoover — who lived downwind from Hanford, a former nuclear weapons production site in south central Washington state and who now suffers from radiation poisoning — read a work of poetry at the Thursday event, highlighting the gravity of war. 

Kelly Campbell, executive director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, shared about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first international ban on nuclear devices. 

Advocating for a world free of biological weapons is crucial to transforming grief into actions for peace and justice, she said. 

Campbell also encouraged involvement in several peace activist organizations represented at the event, including Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace Linus Pauling Chapter and World Beyond War, among others. 

Masumi Timson graced the gathering with traditional Japanese koto music prior to the program. Participants folded paper cranes to honor Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who fell victim to leukemia years after surviving Hiroshima.

“I’m for world peace, and what happened over there with the atomic bomb was devastating,” said Fred Shaub, a Corvallis resident who attended the event. “Hopefully, this never happens again.” 

Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber was one of the speakers at the commemoration and read a peace declaration pledging to strive toward change. 

“We have got to continue working together, so humanity can survive. So all of us can learn to live in peace,” he said. 

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Kayla Nguyen is a Reporting Intern for the Albany Democrat-Herald. She will be a senior journalism student at the University of Oregon in the fall. Find her via Twitter @kaylaa_ngu.

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