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Peace project in Putnam Plaza

Nuclear Remembrance Day

What is it? Presented by the Sonoma County Peace Crane Project, a day of activities and action marking the anniversaries of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

When? Sunday, August 6, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where? Putnam Plaza in Downtown Petaluma (between Starbucks and the Food Bar)

How Much? All activities are free

Information and background? SocoPeaceCrane.org

This Sunday, Aug. 6 – the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in Japan, at the end of WWII – origami master Henry Kaku will transform an eight-foot-square piece of paper into a massive paper crane in downtown Petaluma. The visually stunning feat will be just one of many events taking place as part of the Sonoma County Peace Crane Project’s annual Nuclear Remembrance Day, to be held this year at Putnam Plaza.

“The origami crane is a symbol of peace, and of healing,” says Sachiko Knappman, one of the event’s organizers, and a participant since she was asked to help fold cranes for the event about ten years ago. “Since I’m Japanese, I was asked if I knew how to make paper cranes, and I said, ‘Yes. Uh huh,’ and that year I folded about a thousand cranes.”

This year, visitors to Putnam Plaza will have a chance to help fold cranes themselves, and Knappman – who demonstrated how to write the word “peace” using Japanese calligraphy in 2016, will lead participants in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the plaza.

“The tea ceremony came from a time when Japan was caught up in brutal warfare,” she explains. “It became a symbol of coming together in peace, sharing a quiet moment together. I feel it came from people wanting to connect deeply with others even as the world was falling apart.”

The Peace Crane Project was originally started by the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center, which, 25 years ago, established a local commemoration of Nuclear Remembrance Day.

“It began as a way of remembering those who died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” says Larry Harper, another of this year’s organizers, “but a few years ago, we started expanding to include all victims of the nuclear cycle, including residents of the Marshall Islands, where the U.S. tested weapons, the ‘downwinders’ who suffered from the radiation carried after nuclear testing in Nevada and Utah, the Native American who built their homes on contaminated soil.”

The event has further expanded to include those affected by disastrous accidents at nuclear power plants, from Chernobyl in the Ukraine to Fukushima in Japan.

“Nuclear Remembrance Day is part history lesson and part activism,” allows Harper, adding, “There are kids today who do not know that, for now, the U.S. is the only country that has ever dropped a nuclear weapon during warfare.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened two years before I was born,” he goes on, “but I grew up having drills in school, where we’d hear the sirens and all get under our desks, to practice what we’d do if someone dropped a bomb on us. As if that would have saved anyone.”

The symbol of the Peace Crane comes from the true story of Sadako, a Japanese girl who believed that if she could fold 1,000 paper cranes, she might survive leukemia. She contracted the disease as a result of radiation from the Hiroshima bombing. Though she did not survive, her action became a potent symbol that has since been embraced by people all over the world.

Also featured in this year’s event – the second to take place in Putnam Plaza after several years in Santa Rosa – will be a poster exhibit from the Mayors for Peace, traditional calligraphy and origami workshops, a Geiger counter demonstration, and performances by Petaluma’s TenTen Taiko, and Elliot Kallen, playing the shakuhachi, an ancient Japanese bamboo flute. There will also be a public altar where visitors can leave incense, or paper cranes and other offerings.

Nuclear Remembrance Day

What is it? Presented by the Sonoma County Peace Crane Project, a day of activities and action marking the anniversaries of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

When? Sunday, August 6, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where? Putnam Plaza in Downtown Petaluma (between Starbucks and the Food Bar)

How Much? All activities are free

Information and background? SocoPeaceCrane.org

“The altar is in honor of the victims of nuclear energy,” Knappman says.

It is fitting, she believes, that the Peace Crane event is now being held out in the open, at a bustling downtown crossroads, instead of indoors.

“Peace has to start out in the open,” she says, “with each one of us, between friends and neighbors, and the strangers we meet on the streets.

“As a species,” she adds, “our weakness is that we so often resort to violence to solve problems. But our strength, as a species, is also that sometimes we know how to come together for the good.”

(Contact David at david.templeton@arguscourier.com)