COLUMBIA — With the 64th anniversary of the nuclear bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, speaker Andy Heaslet of the Peace Economy Project echoed the Beatles' song “When I’m 64” during his speech at the 23rd annual Mid-Missouri Peaceworks commemoration of the event.
“In 64 more years, what will still be feeding? What will we still be needing? Not a war economy, but a peace economy,” Heaslet said.
The St. Louis-based Peace Economy Project is focused on reducing military spending for infrastructure and social needs.
“It’s time to place the needs and priorities of the people ahead of the needs of war profiteers,” Heaslet said.
Heaslet was the first speaker, followed later in the evening by Rock Bridge Christian Church pastor Maureen Dickmann.
“There needs to be constant pressure from us — from the grassroots up,” Dickmann said.
Between speakers, while people ate from the potluck and made lanterns, the Gordon Shelter at Stephens Lake Park was host to musical performances by Violet Vonder Haar, the Universal Drum Appeal and Elise Brion.
Vonder Haar, now a student at Central Methodist University, sang at the rally when she was about 12 or 13. Vonder Haar was also there as a supporter of the event and Peaceworks.
“We have to let people know what we think is wrong, and what we think is right,” she said. “We can’t forget what the things we’ve done in the past that shouldn’t be repeated.”
As the event drew to a close at about 9 p.m., event participants walked silently to Stephens Lake holding paper lanterns constructed earlier in the evening. While Universal Drum Appeal played in the background, Peaceworks Director Mark Haim placed lanterns in the lake.
“This is an opportunity for people to affirm and renew a commitment to do the work to promote peace and disarmament,” Haim said.
Amy Dove, a volunteer with Peaceworks, oversaw the lantern making and said they reuse the supplies every year and always collect the lanterns from the lake after the ceremony.
“For the most part, they have messages of no more nuclear war and promote peace,” Dove said.
Phyllis Rowe, a Columbia resident who was attending the event for the first time, made a lantern covered in symbols, including a peace sign, star and a flower. Rowe said it was peaceful to watch them glide across the lake.
“There really is a sense of unity here,” she said.
Haim also stressed the unity and importance of it that the event creates.
“It’s hard to work for this on an ongoing basis — it takes real commitment,” he said. “We are much more able to do that with a feeling of solidarity.”