G8 Speakers lay flowers and join hands in Hiroshima

by Staff Writers of the Chugoku Shimbun

Ahead of the start of the G8 Summit of Lower House Speakers, the leaders of the legislatures in these eight major nations visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on the morning of September 2. The participants, including the speakers of four nuclear powers, among them Nancy Pelosi of the United States, offered their sympathies to the victims of the atomic bombing by laying flowers before the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims.

  The nine summit participants arrived at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park at 8:30 am. They walked slowly toward the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, led by Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, as a choir of 135 citizens sang and about 600 elementary school students waved small flags.

The participants, each holding a bouquet of flowers, proceeded to the Cenotaph. As Mayor Akiba spoke, explaining the inscription on the Cenotaph and the community which had occupied the area of the park before the bombing, the speakers turned to face the monument and spontaneously joined hands.

  Outside Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, 18 elementary and junior high school students from the city presented the speakers with messages of peace, which they had composed themselves at school, and leis of 1000 paper cranes. Speaker Pelosi told them, “I’ll decorate my office in America with these paper cranes. Please come and see them.”

Inside Peace Memorial Museum, Akihiro Takahashi, 77, an A-bomb survivor and former director of the museum, recounted his experience of the bombing to the summit participants. “I despise the atomic bombs from the depth of my heart,” he said, sitting before a display of his fingernails, which grew deformed after the bombing. “But I--but we all--must overcome the bitterness we feel. I believe that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil and I ask that the United States and Russia, the two nuclear superpowers, commit to the abolition of nuclear weapons.” The speakers listened attentively, nodding, as Mr. Takahashi voiced his sentiments.

Afterwards, Mr. Takahashi commented on his direct appeal to the speakers, which included the U.S. Speaker of the House, third in line from the presidency. “I would like to know to what extent the speakers have embraced the call of the A-bombed city.”

(Originally published on September 2, 2008)