August 6, 2003

Hyde Park Holds Hiroshima Memorial at Nuclear Energy Statue

A group of more than 50 people attended a Hiroshima Day Memorial Ceremony held in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood in the early evening hours of August 6, 2003, 58 years to the day after the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb upon Hiroshima, Japan.

The ceremony was held on Ellis Avenue between 56th and 57th streets at the Henry Moore statue "Nuclear Energy". The statue is built on the exact location where in 1942 the very first self-sustained nuclear chain reaction was created, marking the dawn of the age of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

The ceremony's moderator, peace activist and former presidential candidate Bradford Lyttle, began the ceremony by holding a model of the casing of a 200-kiloton hydrogen bomb, an aluminum tube one foot in diameter and two-and-a-half feet tall. A hydrogen bomb of that size if detonated in downtown Chicago would destroy all of the buildings in downtown, set fire to buildings as far as 15 miles away, and kill several million people.

The hour-long ceremony consisted of brief speeches alternating with musical performances by guitarist David Martin and keyboardist Lisa Rademacher. Martin and Rademacher performed a number of peace anthems, including "I Come And Stand," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Song of Peace."

Two speakers, Alexander DeVolpi and Gerald Marsh, were both retired physicists from Argonne National Laboratory who spoke critically of nuclear weapons and the Bush Administration. DeVolpi in particular characterized the administration's anti-ballistic missile defense proposal as a "pipe dream." Marsh said that what happened to the city of Hiroshima served as a symbol of what could happen to all cities.

Two other speakers, Sister Kathleen Desautels SP and Mary Kay Flanagan, faced jailtime for their activism and spoke of encouraging efforts for peace. Sister Desautels said that the Bush administration's cause for war on Iraq was "sold to us on a lie." Flanagan quoted the Gandhi poem "My Faith in Non-Violence".

Bernice Bild, another speaker and community activist, characterized what happened at Hiroshima as "the evil that was done so many years ago." Bild noted that at the time of the memorial, the U.S. Strategic Command was meeting near Omaha to draw up the blueprints for a new century of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Quentin Young, a former director of Cook County Hospital and noted single- payer-health-plan advocate, noted that the research which took place at the Nuclear Energy statue was part of what was termed "The Metallurgy Project", which was part of the Manhattan Project and precursor to building the first atomic bomb.

The memorial's final speaker, activist and emeritus professor of mathematics Mel Rothenburg, said even though we live in dangerous times, it is the efforts of concerned citizens and activists that can oppose dangerous policies.

The memorial was organized by members of the Hyde Park Committee Against War and Racism, in particular member Carol Herzenberg who received two ovations near the end of the memorial for her organizing efforts.