'Atomic flame' enlightens Hollister

By Erin Musgrave, Hollister Free Lance Staff Writer, July 19, 2005

Hollister, CA (USA) -- In an age of terrorist threats, high alerts and suicide bombings, a group of Buddhist monks brought their fight against weapons of mass destruction and the social consciousness that accepts them to the streets of Hollister in the ?Atomic Flame? walk Monday.

Four monks and a handful of supporters made their way down Highway 25 and through downtown Hollister carrying a red lantern housing a flame that has been burning since an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, nearly 60 years ago.

The flame, which was kindled from the embers of the city of Hiroshima, has been kept alive in Japan for the past six decades and finally will be extinguished when the monks reach their destination next month, according to the group?s Web site.

The group, which began its three and a half week-long journey in San Francisco Saturday, will cross three states and nearly 1,600 miles on foot before reaching their destination of Trinity Site, N.M., where the world?s first nuclear weapon was detonated on July 16, 1945. However, they plan to arrive at the White Sands Missile Range on Aug. 9 - marking the 60th anniversary of the day the atomic bomb known as ?Fat Man? destroyed Nagasaki, according to Soto Zen monk, Keigaku.

Join the walk! Click here to view the walk schedule

?By bringing back the actual atomic flame to the birthplace (of the bomb), we close the circle that started 60 years ago. It brings awareness to what took place,? Keigaku said. ?For me, by walking, I can look inside me and see what I have - to ask myself what I hope to bring in this world: Peace, compassion, acceptance.?

Keigaku has been a resident of San Francisco for the past 19 years, but three of his companions, all dressed in traditional robes, sandals and head wear, traveled from Japan to join the walk, he said.

And although the bomb?s creation brought death and destruction on a massive scale to the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Keigaku said he now embraces that fiery remnant because it brought him, his fellow monks and other supporters of their cause together in their walk for peace. More than 200,000 Japanese died in the bombing and thousands more later succumbed to radiation-related illnesses.

?Because of that, we?re now creating awareness,? he said. ?For that I?m grateful.?

Morgan Hill resident, Linda Roma, who works in Hollister for the Department of Agriculture, accompanied the group while they took a lunch break along Highway 25 at Hudner Lane around 2pm on Monday.

She took the time to walk with the group for awhile because she believes in their cause.

?I hope that it would make people more aware that peace is a possibility,? Roma said. ?And it has to start right here in Hollister or in your neighborhood.?

Besides bringing awareness to the event that ended World War II and changed the world, Australian resident Kerrie-Ann Garlic said she joined the monks in their walk to change her country?s view point of Americans, one person at a time.

?We get a lot of negative press about America (in Australia),? Garlic said. ?But we?re all part of the problem, and we?re all part of the solution. The knowledge I?m getting through this experience is great, but also the caring, generous, open people I?ve met who are really working hard to make change in this world.?

The group camped at Bolado Park Monday evening before continuing their journey through California. They also hope the march garners funds for the Global Nuclear Disarmament Fund, which is attempting to raise money to dismantle nuclear weapons, according to the Web site. For more information about their walk for peace and the ?atomic flame,? log onto www.gndfund.org.