A fleet of flickering, dancing lights drifting slowly across the calm waters of the Gorge have come to symbolize a quest for peace.
“For me, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been for peace,” said Megumi Saunders, the minister for children, youth, young adults and family at First Metropolitan Church.
Lanterns are lit and cast out to sea as part of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Remembered Ceremony, taking place at Esquimalt Gorge Park on Tuesday, Aug 6.
Saunders was raised in Nara, Japan. She visited Hiroshima in March with her son and two grandchildren.
For the past six years, she has asked children from her church to read stories at the event that are drawn from interviews with children who survived the blasts, collected in a book titled Children of the Atomic Bomb.
Saunders chooses stories featuring children the same age as those who will read them, to help foster connection.
“(The children) survived but their dad died, the next day their mom died, their sister died, their brother died, grandparents missing,” she said. “So the people remember what happened to children, and their memories, why we have to keep peace.”
This year marks the 68th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombing contributed to the end of the Second World War, but devastated the cities and caused the deaths of an estimated 150,000 people.
Linda Taffs, a member of ceremony co-organizer Raging Grannies, has been a peace activist since the first Gulf War in 1991, but has long taken a serious interest in peace issues. She visited Hiroshima in 1984 to see firsthand the memorials dedicated to the bombings.
“It was very interesting. It was also very moving,” she said.
One statue Taffs clearly remembers is of a mother bending over and sheltering her children. Saunders wears a pendant featuring the same image around her neck as part of her own remembrance.
To Taffs and the others, the lanterns act as a symbol of peace. Participants will be able to make their lanterns at the event, adorned with messages of peace and hope.
“To light the lantern for peace, to show the way,” Taffs explained.
All are encouraged to participate in the ceremony. Materials for lanterns are provided for free. All floating lanterns are collected after, to avoid littering.
Lantern making begins at 7 p.m., followed by words and songs of peace at 7:30, then the floating of the lanterns in the waterway.