BURLINGTON - Sixty years after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan, the world still lives with the threat of nuclear annihilation. That was the message peace activists conveyed in a series of vigils, lectures, films and other activities marking the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and August 9, 1945. Organizers from the Peace and Justice Center, the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, Pax Christi and the American Friends Service Committee also reminded Vermonters that while the bombings may have brought an end to the war, they cost more than 200,000 Japanese civilians their lives.
A dozen or so people marked that loss by participating in the week's inaugural event, "The Shadow Project," on Friday. Pioneered by the Oregon chachaarked that loss by participating in the week's inaugural event, "The Shadow Project," on Friday. Pioneered by the Oregon cha inaugural event, "The Shadow Project," on Friday. Pioneered by the Oregon chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, these spontaneous public murals - reproduced in 50 cities around the globe - serve as a visual reminder that thousands of people were vaporized instantly in the blasts. All that remained were their shadows, burned onto the pavement.
At noon on Friday, volunteers unrolled a 10-by-100-foot sheet of black plastic on a sidewalk in City Hall Park. They had planned to spread it out on Church Street in front of the Burlington Town Center, but two large trucks parked on the street blocked their path, said Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, director of the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign.
Mulvaney-Stanak was one of the small group of people who lay down on the plastic, limbs splayed randomly. Others - including Mulvaney-Stanak's twin sister Lluvia, director of Outright Vermont - traced their silhouettes with masking tape or white paint. Organizers hung the banner of body outlines from the roof of the Firehouse Gallery in time for the evening's First Friday Art Tour.
Morgan Kelner of Winooski described the display as "a way to comment on how tragic war is" - a timely sentiment. She also expressed concern that nuclear war is still a possibility. Iran, for example, has recently indicated that it may pursue atomic weapons, and the U.S. government has said it wants to begin manufacturing a particularly lethal form of plutonium in Idaho, presumably for weapons. Kelner hoped the Shadow Project might raise public awareness of this threat. "I think it will catch the eyes of a lot of people downtown," she said.
It did. Brittany Clough and Emily Finn, 16-year-olds from New Hampshire in town for the Burton Snowboard Summer Sale, were drawn to the spectacle. Clough wore an "I (heart) New York" shirt. "We were just playing Frisbee," she said, "and we saw all the people."
Clough said she knew about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but hadn't realized that this was the 60th anniversary of the bombings. After hearing about the people who had been vaporized, she asked the organizers for some tape, and proceeded to lie down while Finn traced the outline of her body.
Neither girl seemed to grasp the nuances of the antiwar message, or fear any impending doom. When asked what motivated them to take part, Clough said, "It's for a good cause, what happened, and stuff." Responded Finn, "We thought it sounded cool."
Others who wandered over seemed more in tune with the activists. Judith Janone, on her lunch break from her job at the Fletcher Free Library, said she approved of the display. "It shouldn't be forgotten," she said. "I admire the people who do this."