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After 70 years, still fighting for peace

It took years for Hideko Tamura Snider to speak about the trauma she experienced in surviving the bombing of Hiroshima as a child. 70 years later, she will return to her childhood home to deliver a keynote speech at a conference, drawing upon her own experience to call for a transformed future.

"Being alive is so very important," Snider said. "What happened in Hiroshima was extremely instructive."

The Asian Conference on Peace, Humanitarian Aid and Service will run for two days starting Thursday, Aug. 6, the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The conference will focus on a wide range of topics, including food security, sustainable engineering and peace and conflict resolution. Snider's speech will be the product of revelations she said she's had over the past 20 years in particular.

She recalled that, for many years, no one around her wanted to talk about the bombing. Rebuilding involved silence on the part of her fellow Japanese, and what she perceived to be guilt from Americans when she came to this country in 1952. While she buried her feelings for most of her life about the destruction and the loss of her mother, Snider said her work as a psychiatric social worker was where she found her only emotional recourse.

"I owe everything to my patients," she said. "Confronting what happened is really difficult for me. I'd rather not. But helping them was how I felt emotion again."

In 1996 she published a book, "One Sunny Day," about the bombing, but even then, she continued to learn to understand her own feelings. In 2006, she traveled back to Hiroshima with the Ashland Peace Choir for an event at Memorial Peace Park at ground zero, and she has been involved with the annual remembrances of the bombings in Ashland and Medford.

Snider's speech will focus largely on lessons to be learned from the 1945 bombings. She's far more interested in what the world will do with regard to nuclear weapons in the future than coming to a consensus about the past.

"I never felt animosity about who dropped (the bomb) or why. We just need to focus on what this power does," Snider said. She referenced the biblical story of Cain and Abel as an example of the disaster that ensues when competition between humans overwhelms their obligation to "be their brother's keeper."

The wounds are still not fully healed, but she sees remembrance as integral to meaningful discourse, and said that's why she was asked to speak in the city this year.

"Hiroshima was the demonstration of the absolute end. All survivors, they have a duty never to forget it," Snider said. "The best battle is one where you don't have to kill anybody. There's a lot you can do before bloodshed."

Reach reporting intern Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@mailtribune.com.