Chalk outlines of bodies to mark Hiroshima bomb blast


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There was nothing small about "Little Boy," the atomic bomb that immediately killed 80,000 people upon explosion in Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Appalling images include flesh seared to the bone and faces without eyes, ears or a nose. But perhaps the worst sights of all were of nothing -- shadows burned into the ground or onto buildings where people doing everyday things were disintegrated by the bomb's immense heat.

Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace will harness the power of these silhouettes Sunday and Monday on the 67th anniversary of the bombing. On those days, the alliance's Shadow Project encourages people to trace chalk outlines of each other around Pittsburgh to memorialize Hiroshima victims and illustrate the horrors of nuclear war.

A volunteer-driven alliance formed in 2008, the group consists of companies and individuals committed to opposing nuclear war and rethinking nuclear energy. It fulfills its mission through creative initiatives such as art, workshops, lectures and film. The group hopes for dialogue with the public to evolve as part of the shadow drawings and volunteers' presence around the city.

"It's a way of conveying complex ideas in a very understandable, visual way," said Shadow Project member Robin Alexander.

Groups will create shadows Sunday from 12:30 to 1 p.m. at Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and Monday at Union Project and Carnegie Mellon's "Walking to the Sky" sculpture at 11 and 11:30 a.m., respectively.

The Week of Remembrance kicked off Tuesday with a proclamation by Pittsburgh City Council recognizing the advocacy work of Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, the alliance will show "Nuclear Savage" at Pittsburgh Filmmakers Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $8, $7 for seniors and students. The documentary by Adam Jonas Horowitz explores the struggles of people on the Marshall Islands who experienced radiation poisoning due to weapons testing and human experiments by the U.S. government.

For a half-hour before the screening, more outlines will be traced on the sidewalks outside of the theater.

The 87-minute film will conclude close to the hour of the bombing's anniversary in Hiroshima, which is 13 hours ahead of Pittsburgh time. Peace activists from Kobe, Japan, will call through Skype at that point to interact with people at the theater and share their feelings as their nation mourns 67 years later. Alliance member Jo Schlesinger said the Skype call has been a "very powerful experience" when carried out in other cities.

Images and videos of the chalk outlines will be displayed at a free closing ceremony Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty, after one last session of tracing from 6:30 to 7 p.m. outside. For more information or to send in pictures and videos of your own chalk outlines for the presentation, email shadowprojectpgh@gmail.com or visit http://rememberinghiroshima.wordpress.com.

The ceremony will include peace-themed readings from members of the Thomas Merton Center and local poets, performances by the Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle of the Calliope folk music society and talks on nuclear topics.

The alliance expanded its focus to embody the dangers of nuclear energy after the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, which released radioactive materials into the area.

The threat of nuclear contamination isn't too far from home, either. According to Ms. Schlesinger, 80 percent of Pennsylvanians live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, with Pittsburghers just 34 miles from the Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station in Shippingport.

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Rob Wennemer: rwennemer@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1723


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