The toll of the Yokohama Friendship Bell rang out across San Diego Bay 11 times on the morning of Monday, August 9, 2010 -- the reverberation both solemn and hopeful.
From 10:40 a.m. until 11:01 a.m., the bell, which is housed on the Port of San Diego's western tip of Shelter Island, was sounded six times – followed by a moment of silence at 11:02 a.m. – then five more tolls. The bell ringing – at the hands of both survivors, relatives of survivors, as well as those who perished – was part of a commemoration ceremony of the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing by the United States of Nagasaki, Japan.
A similar bell-ringing ceremony was held on Friday, August 6, 2010, at the same location to commemorate the atomic blast that followed the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, 65 years ago.
The multi-cultural and interfaith ceremony was organized by the "U+I Alliance" as part of their World Initiative to Save Humanity (WISH) gathering. Their goal was not to focus on the destruction during World War II, but instead to focus on peace going forward.
Dr. Akiko Mikamo, one of the event organizers, spoke at the ceremony. Her parents survived the Hiroshima blast.
"We're thankful for the last 65 years without an atomic bomb being used anywhere in the world," Mikamo said. "In the 21st Century, we have a real threat of nuclear war and terrorism. Now is not the time to fight. We need to teach our children we can be friends, no matter what religion, race or beliefs. Now is not the time to fight about justification."
Port Commissioner Michael B. Bixler read a message of goodwill on behalf Board of Port Commission Chairman Robert "Dukie" Valderrama.
"The Port of San Diego is honored that the "U+I Alliance" has chosen to commemorate two earth-changing events of 1945 in a location on San Diego Bay that is symbolic of the healing that occurred in their aftermath," Bixler read. "As a port of great military significance today – and during the war that ended this month, 65 years ago – we in San Diego are familiar with the horrible price of war.
"But we – and the rest of the world – need to be ever reminded of that price, so that we make peace our highest aspiration," he continued. "Our port extends our heartfelt wish for an everlasting partnership of peace and prosperity between Japan and the United States."
Holocaust survivor Dr. John Stoessinger also spoke. Stoessinger is an internationally recognized political analyst and a prize-winning author of 10 leading books on world politics. He recalled how his life was changed by two Japanese diplomats during World War II.
He expressed "gratitude" to Japanese diplomat Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara. Sugihara issued 1,800 travel visas – including one for Stoessinger to Shanghai, China – saving him from Auschwitz. With their visas in hand, he and his parents left behind their homeland and his grandparents. They perished at Auschwitz.
Stoessinger lived out World War II in Shanghai, including both atomic blasts, which were visible across the East China Sea.
"The earth shook and the sun turned a bright red on the horizon," he said of those days 65 years ago.
But it's not the devastation, or stories of hope and survival that one speaker hoped would remain in people's minds.
The woman, whose grandfather died in the atomic blast, told the crowd what she feels is the necessary when it comes to world peace.
"I think education is the one key piece to keep peace and avoid wars," she said. "That is why this Nagasaki anniversary is very important."
The event also featured performances by the Nihon Gakuen Youth Group, a display of Okinawa Karate and interfaith prayers. Representatives from the cities of San Diego, Coronado and the County of San Diego, including County Supervisor Ron Roberts, were also in attendance.