Participants silently stand across from the entrance of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant following this morning’s Names and Remembrance Ceremony. (KNS photo/Michael Patrick)
About 25 pacifists gathered before dawn on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, to remember those who died from the atomic blast and its after effects.
The annual Names & Remembrance Ceremony was held across the street from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, which produced the enriched uranium that fueled the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima near the end of World War II.
Participants took turns reading the names of those who died or read stories, including first-hand accounts of survivors of the Aug. 6, 1945 bombing. After each name, the reader would lightly ring a bell and hang a paper peace crane on a display fence.
The roadside event was solemn, underscored by the gray clouds overhead and a light rain that fell periodically. The tone of the ceremony was occasionally interrupted by drive-by hecklers, shouting “Remember Pearl Harbor” or honking their horns, and the steady traffic of Y-12 employees reporting to work.
The Oak Ridge plant remains a central cog in the production of parts for newly refurbished weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which staged Thursday’s event, is trying to build opposition to a new multibillion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility being planned at Y-12.
Jim Toren, a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, was part of a group of antinuclear activists who rode their bicycles from Chattanooga to Oak Ridge — stopping by TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant on the way. They called their action, “Bikes Not Bombs.”
“It’s important that we don’t forget about Hiroshima and that we never let it happen again,” he said.
Among other participants was Marese Nephew, widow of former Oak Ridge Mayor Ed Nephew.
She said she periodically attends the Sunday Peace Vigils near Y-12 and proudly noted that her late husband was mayor in the early-1990s when the International Friendship Bell was installed in Oak Ridge as a monument for peace.
The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance is planning a protest on Saturday to call for nuclear disarmament and an end to plans for new production facilities at Y-12.
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