COLUMBIA — "No more Hiroshima" and "Disarm all nukes" banners waved from the front of the Gordon pavilion at Stephens Lake Park on Saturday night.
Conversation filled the air as people helped themselves to a long buffet of food — potluck style — at the back of the pavilion and made paper lanterns that would float above the lake after the sun went down.
The crowd of about 50 gathered together to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Speakers at the event advocated for peace and nuclear disarmament.
Tracy Potts, 47, a self-proclaimed proponent of peace, said "people with an opinion should be visible."
"I feel very strongly that we should do away with nuclear weapons — disarm and dismantle. For the future to inherit the world, it has to still exist," she said.
Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said the gathering's goal was to keep "the future, not the past in mind."
The event featured two speakers — Eduardo Crespi, executive director of Centro Latino, and Bill Wickersham, adjunct professor of Peace Studies at MU.
Crespi expressed a desire to develop a piece of land at the corner of Sexton Road and Garth Avenue as a "Peace Garden and Park."
"For me, being there (at the piece of land) everyday is significant," Crespi said. "People shoot each other at that corner. With the park there, maybe they won't shoot each other; they'll go to another corner."
After his speech, Crespi's daughter, Nicole Crespi, played and sang for the crowd the song "Imagine," which was originally written and performed by John Lennon.
Wickersham said Friday he would open his speech by remembering two local peace advocates, including Charles Atkins, who was a veteran of two wars and owned a local department store. Wickersham said that nuclear weapons were immoral, dangerous and against international law.
"Nuclear weapons are expensive too," he said. "Since 1945, we have spent about $18 trillion on them. I believe in strong national defense, but we need to shift from a war economy to a peace economy."
An MU visiting scholar from China, Tian Hanmin, 38, thought the gathering was an event organized by Japanese people when he first heard about it. He was surprised to see Americans.
"It surprised me that Americans regret throwing bombs on Japan," he said. "I think they should regret the entire war, not just a part of it."
In addition to speeches, the event also featured lantern-making and live music by Trina Brunk. After the speeches, they released their paper lanterns over Stephens Lake — a symbol of the hopes they share.
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.