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Free New Mexican, Aug 10th, 2005


Monks hope journey will mark the start of a new future

August 10, 2005


A 1,600-mile ourney to extinguish a flame that has been burning since the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb 60 years ago has ended in the New Mexico desert.
A group of Buddhist monks and dozens of others participated in a silent ceremony Tuesday evening at the Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range, where the world's first atomic weapon was detonated.

As the sun set, the monks _ dressed in robes the color of the black lava of the Trinity monument _ joined three flames to make one. The Trinity Site and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were all represented.

The flame was used to burn a cloth. As it was reduced to ashes, the flame was extinguished and the ashes placed in lacquer boxes to be given to the leaders of the eight nations with nuclear capabilities.

The monks, who were silent Tuesday in remembrance of the atomic bombings, wanted to return the flame to the place it came from and extinguish it in the hope that nuclear weapons will never be used.

"It was fabulous. There's no words," said Matt Taylor, co-executive director of the Global Nuclear Disarmament Fund, which helped organize the journey. "It's amazing that 60 years comes to an end the way it did."

The flame, which had been burning since 1945, was a vivid reminder of the day a U.S. bomber dropped the "Little Boy" atomic bomb on Hiroshima. More than 200,000 Japanese died in the bombing. Three days later, Nagasaki was hit.

The monks walked with the lame during the last three weeks, passing through California, Arizona and part of New Mexico. Their goal was to reach the Trinity site on Tuesday, the anniversary of when the atomic bomb called "Fat Man" detonated over Nagasaki.

The Japanese monks set out from San Francisco on July 16, the 60th anniversary of the test at Trinity.

White Sands officials said Tuesday's ceremony marked the first time such access had been granted to the restricted missile range. Trinity Site generally is open to the public only twice a year _ the first Saturday in April and October _ and July 16 this year for the 60th anniversary of the test.

Taylor also noted that Tuesday marked the first time the Japanese have been allowed at the site on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing.

"It was something that was extremely powerful and moving," he said.

His group is planning a trip to Russia in September to continue negotiations to allow private citizens around the world to raise money that would help speed up the nuclear disarmament process. He said the Russian government has been receptive to the plan.

During the monks' journey to the Trinity Site, Taylor said people pledged $1.3 million for the proposed disarmament program. He said that would be enough to pay for destroying 13 nuclear weapons.

"If the Russians drop a global challenge to allow people to help, the U.S. can't ignore it. … This is all about empowering the people," he said.

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