Atomic flame extinguished at Trinity Site

By Laura Hunt, Alamogordo News, Aug 10, 2005

New Mexico, USA -- A flame lit by embers from the first atomic bomb, which exploded over Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945, smoldered into ashes Tuesday at Trinity Site on White Sands Missile Range, the birthplace of atomic weapons.

<< Completing the circle ? Japanese Buddhist monks use three torches to light a sacred cloth scroll during a ceremony at the obelisk at Trinity Site?s Ground Zero on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki Tuesday at White Sands Missile Range. The burning of the cloth signified the unification of the trinity ? Trinity Site, where the first atomic device was detonated, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the world?s first and second atomic bombs were dropped. The flame was then extinguished, hoped by many to bring full circle the unleashing of nuclear power. The original flame had been lit from flames from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 60 years ago. Ellis Neel/Daily News

Buddhist monks, joined by about 50 peace activists and supporters, participated in a silent ceremony while extinguishing the flame on the 60th anniversary of the Nagasaki, Japan, bombing.

During the ceremony, the monks mouthed prayers that atomic weapons will never be used on a civilian population again, said Matt Taylor, Global Nuclear Disarmament Fund co-executive director.

?I was raised in Japan, and I?ve known about the monks who?ve been walking all my life,? Taylor said. ?The explanation I was given as a chid when I asked ?why are they walking?? was because if they stopped, the destruction would continue beyond Nagasaki. Of course they?re voiceless monks who don?t do this for recognition. They don?t to this to impress anybody. It?s their humble prayer and sacrifice that this will stop at Nagasaki.?

The flame has been carried on peace marches around the world for the past 60 years, he said. In Zen culture, 60 years is the end of a cycle.

?They believe that everything good and bad happens in circles,? he said. ?The atomic bomb was born at Trinity Site, then used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For 60 years, the world has been living in fear that Nagasaki wouldn?t be the last place it was used.?

The Japanese monks walked the 60-year-old atomic flame 1,600 miles from San Francisco? a 25-day journey that began on July 16, the 60th anniversary of the test at Trinity Site.

Rev. Daijho Ota led the group as they arrived at Trinity Site. Ota, dressed in black robes and walking solemnly, carried a red and black dictionary-sized box.

He raised the box to the Trinity Site monument ? similar to how one would hold up an offering ? and bowed his head. A plaque on the monument reads, ?Trinity Site. Where the world?s first nuclear device was exploded on July 16, 1945.?

After several minutes, the monks bowed to each other and kneeled on cushions arranged in a circle around a stake in the ground.

The lantern, which contained three flames representing Trinity Site, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, was passed from one monk to another and to six supporters standing nearby. It traveled in a circle until coming back to Ota. He placed it aside, unrolled a prayer cloth and covered the cloth with brightly-colored origami peace cranes, which were created by children in Arizona and New Mexico.

The cloth was rolled again and placed on the stake in the center of the four monks.

Ota held the lantern while the other monks each lit a torch from one of the flames. The lantern was extinguished and the monks touched their torches to the cloth in the circle?s center.

The monks prayed, heads bowed, as the atomic flame dwindled down to embers and then was gone.
Ota opened the red and black box, which had four compartments, and the monks put the ashes and dirt from the site into it.

Three sections of the ashes will be sent to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and a museum in the United States, possibly the Smithsonian, Taylor said. The remaining ashes will be divided into eight parts and sent to the heads of countries that possess nuclear capabilities, including the United States, he said.

Taylor said, as the ceremony concluded, a circular cloud formed above the group.

?It was really amazing to see that happen and to see 60 years of prayer come to a conclusion,? he said. ?They opened a new circle that will see a new beginning for the younger generation.?

Part of that new beginning, Taylor said, is looking at and using nuclear power in a positive way instead of a destructive way.

?There?s a lot of things that have also evolved, like nuclear medicine,? Taylor said. ?The hydrogen bomb was created and used in war, but now Toyota is developing hydrogen technology to offer clean energy for cars... A technology created to destroy humanity can be curved to help humanity.?