Opinion: Banners provide message of peace

Seventy years ago, Aug. 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On Aug. 9, 1945, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
Thirty years ago, Aug. 4, 1985, the Pentagon was encircled by peace banners.
Justine Merritt, a grandmother from Denver, was moved during her daily prayers: She wanted to encircle the Pentagon in a ribbon of peace. That year was 1982.
Over the next three years her vision spread. We were told to respond to this question, “What can you not bear to think of as lost forever in a nuclear war?” (“13-Mile Folk Art Banner to Encircle Pentagon and Capitol”, Associated Press, Brian Barger, July 31, 1985). In the end, 24,000 banners were made and brought to Washington, D.C. (and this all happened BEFORE internet connections).
“It was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, how big it became. Not only was the Pentagon encircled, as originally planned, but also many of the monuments at the Capitol were encircled. We were out in the streets and in the traffic. Many people had the chance to see the display of peace banners.” (Susan Keniston). Banners were also hung at the Washington National Cathedral where there was a service to pray for peace.
I was then 35 years old with a one-and-a-half-year-old son and a daughter in my womb. I made a banner of the hands of my family. (I did not travel to D.C.)
I passed my banner to Susan Keniston who also lived in Bristol at the time. She, with others, traveled to the Pentagon with Fay Honey Knopp, a Quaker who attended the Middlebury Friends’ Meeting. I have been told that when Honey and her vanload of friends came to the Pentagon, she asked the guard, “Is your wife here, carrying a banner?” Honey understood how to be open hearted and inclusive, to help people understand their inter-connective aspects.
A week or so after this “event” I was walking down the street in Middlebury and there was my banner hanging up. (Banners were not to be returned to their creators. They were to be “parceled out for exhibitions at museums and the United Nations and for use at rallies all over the country.” “Peace Lovers Have a Banner Day,” Washington Post, Saundra Saperstein, Aug. 5, 1985.)
I was moved that I had the chance to touch and see my banner again.
I now hang my banner so that I can feel the power of that gathering and the intention.
I wonder. Where are the rest of the banners? It is time to take them out and gather once more, with thousands more, perhaps one million.
Before Barack Obama was elected president, he spoke of reducing the atomic weapons stockpile. That reduction has not happened yet. The time has come.
I honor the victims of Hiroshima. I honor the victims of Nagasaki. I honor all victims of war. 
Thank you for listening.
Note: If anyone in the area is interested in sharing memories of this event and/or in re-displaying our banners and/or making new ones, let me know. You can reach me best by e-mail: [email protected]. You can also look up my home phone number.
Patty Heather-Lea

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