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Dear Editor:

For more than 30 years, Gila Friends Meeting (Quaker) has held a public witness near the August days when the United States detonated atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Our purpose has always been to remind New Mexicans of the horrendous toll of those explosions, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and leaving radioactive "hot spots" on the land.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the birth of "the Bomb," right here in New Mexico. The Atomic Age began in a flash of light at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, a Monday morning. Our history of "downwinders" - populations affected by the fallout of atomic detonations - began in the Tularosa Basin a few minutes later. One of the makers of the bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer later remarked that it brought to mind words from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

The bombs dropped on Japan's cities further revealed the terrible power that could be unleashed. So did years of above-ground testing by the U.S. in Utah, Nevada and the South Pacific. Other nations joined the nuclear race, doing their own testing and adding to the nuclear pollution of the earth and its atmosphere. Finally, the U.S. and most nations of the world signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, effective in 1970. The signatory nations with nuclear weapons agreed "to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals."

Though perhaps 80% of the global nuclear weapons have, in fact, been eliminated, there are still enough poised to "make the rubble bounce" and to render places around the world uninhabitable for centuries - like Chernobyl today. The U.S. and other nations are presently "upgrading" their arsenals (at a cost of trillions of dollars) and testing is being proposed again.

It would be especially important for those who say "Never again!" to nuclear weapons to gather again in this anniversary year. We appreciate the cooperation received in past years from the Town Parks Department and the application had already gone through channels. However, under the present coronavirus concerns, an in-person gathering would be ill-advised and will not be held.

Those who are concerned about the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons and those who would like to learn more about the subject are encouraged to register for the "75th Anniversary Hiroshima Day One-Hour Online Commemoration" on August 6, which will include Evelyn Naranjo of Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Reverend John Dear and Jay Coghlan of Nukewatch.org (https://paceebene.org/hiroshimaday2020 to register).

Locally, Tom Vaughan will post a series of daily Facebook posts, which will then be shared with several other local Facebook pages. The series will include posters published by the War Resisters League in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the bombings. Gila Friends have had these posters at the Observances in the past; this will offer more time to absorb the history they tell.

In this, as in everything else during the pandemic, it is difficult to pick our way forward. In the end, though, our nuclear weapons message is the same: Never again!

In peace,

Tom Vaughan
Gila Friends Meeting (Quaker)

20191110