The panel at the Science Center consisted of two family members of Sept. 11 victims and one survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, all of whom spoke out against the military response to the al Qaeda attacks on America, including a war on Iraq.
Using their personal loss to demonstrate the value of diplomacy without violence, the panelists emphasized that peace was far more important than revenge.
The first speaker, Andrew Rice, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center attacks, described wrestling with his anger after the attacks, before joining Peaceful Tomorrows—an organization of relatives of Sept. 11 victims who have banded together to oppose America’s military response to the terrorist attacks.
“We are a group of people who don’t agree with war as justice for death. Innocent loss of life in the United States is equal to innocent loss of life in Afghanistan,” Rice said.
Terry K. Rockefeller ’72, a documentary filmmaker, lost her sister when a temporary job took her to the 106th floor of the North Tower the morning of the attack.
“I agonized at first, because she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Rockefeller said. “But then I came to realize that every innocent victim of war is, by definition, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Through stifled tears, Rockefeller told how acts of “extraordinary compassion” following the attacks reaffirmed her faith in humanity and inspired her to become an activist for peace.
“We make a personal commitment to connect with people in other parts of the world who have lost loved ones,” she said.
But the most sobering speech was delivered by Seika Ikeda who, at age 12, survived the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima.
With the help of a translator, Ikeda described her experience on Aug. 6, 1945, the day of the attack, in graphic detail.
“Fifty-seven years have passed,” Ikeda said. “And yet the horrors remain for the survivors. We all still suffer. We still fight the fear of death. Not even the greatest writers or artists can describe this horror accurately.”
The other speakers listened in rapt attention as Ikeda described her wounds, which were so grave she required 15 operations to restore her melted face.
She recounted the stench of burnt flesh and death, the sight of bodies strewn “like fish” and the mental and physical anguish of her slow recovery.
“Who do human beings keep fighting?” she cried, arms raised towards the audience. “The survivors of Hiroshima are crying out against war. We are calling for the abolition of atomic bombs. I believe Hiroshima can teach us the dignity of man.”
At the end of the speech Ikeda cautioned the audience against a violent response to the events of Sept. 11.
“By fighting, you lose everything. What happened on September 11, like what happened at Hiroshima, was indiscriminate killing,” she said. “The difference is that Hiroshima has found peace, and the United States has chosen retaliation.”