I apologize for being so late with this post. Pain, starting PT, and a conference took a lot out of me. But if you have been waiting for Part 3(Part 1, Part 2) of Secret City and Its Song,(please tell me you were 🙂 ) here it is….
On my last day in Oak Ridge, I had the honor to meet the key person who brought the International Friendship Bell to Oak Ridge- Shigeko Uppuluri. In 1987 Shigeko (Japanese American citizen) and her late husband, Dr. Ram Uppuluri initiated the idea of bringing a bell to Oak Ridge after visiting one at the Atomic Energy Institute in Japan. The Uppuluri’s had been residents of Oak Ridge since Ram took a job with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 1968. I also met Jerry Luckmann, an Oak Ridge resident on the International Friendship Bell public relations subcommittee*. Initially, the bell caused controversy with some town citizens. In addition to some anti-Japanese sentiment, some residents had a concern that the bell would look like an apology for Oak Ridge’s role in WWII (which was/is not the intent). However, the bell also had the support of many residents like Jerry and Shigeko, who wanted to continue strengthening the relationship between Oak Ridge and Japan.
In 1993, renowned Kyoto bell maker, Sotetsu Iwasawa cast the 8,000 lb. bonsho (unique style with long and low sound) bell at a discount. Private funds were raised by Oak Ridge citizens and Japan. Oak Ridge artist, Savannah Harris, designed two panels on the bell. One panel represents Tennessee: Iris flower, Smoky Mountains, a mockingbird, and dogwoods. The second panel represents Japan: cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji, crane, temple buildings. Both panels have rainbows and atomic energy symbol as a sign that events will never be repeated. A company donated shipping supplies and Honda shipped the bell on its automobile barge to Savannah (at no charge) where a truck that happened to be empty and returning to ORNL brought it to Oak Ridge. The dedication and hanging of the International Friendship Bell in the newly built pavilion at Bissell Park took place, May 1996. The International Friendship Bell commemorates peace, Oak Ridge, and the Manhattan Project workers*.
Jerry and Shigeko both reminded the students of the good will, friendship, and hope that can exist after horrible acts of war by both sides. So, each time the International Friendship Bell tolls, its song of peace fills the air. Similarly, in my novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, as the temple bell rings in the new year, Yuriko says, “… with each bong I sat wishing, peace, peace, peace…”
My mother’s story and the story of Oak Ridge’s (and Hanford’s) contribution to the end of WWII can co-exist as a bridge to understanding each other’s stories with harmony, peace, and the elimination of nuclear weapons on the other side.
The children in Japan loved their family, loved their friends, worried what might happen to them, and wished for peace. The Allied children felt the same. If we don’t stop dehumanizing our “enemies” of 74 years ago and start realizing that they were not so different from ourselves and focus on the emotional connection we have as human beings, then we are at risk of repeating the same deadly mistakes, and silencing the bell’s song of peace forever.
“It would be the sound of peace and contentment, as sound that transcends political opinion or nationality.” Shikego Uppuluri
*There are so many wonderful people responsible and instrumental in purchasing/celebrating the Friendship Bell in Oak Ridge than I could mention in my blog post. For more info about Friendship Bell https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/oak-ridge-international-friendship-bell
*A lovely book given to me by Shigeko Uppuluri – 2008 Historically Speaking International Friendship Bell by Ray Smith was a great resource for me.
**Emily Haverkamp-Jefferson Middle School, Kat Hall-Norris Middle School, Scot Smith-Robertsville Middle School
Also sharing this post at Welcome Heart