A sapling grown from the seeds of a tree that survived the Hiroshima bombings was planted Wednesday on Tappan Square.
The explosion killed 70,000 citizens instantly and an additional 100,000 died from radiation exposure.
“The gingko biloba has existed on this planet for 250 million years,” said college biology professor Mike Moore. “This is the last species, the last survivor of this lineage.”
The ultimate testament to the resiliency of this tree is the fact that it survived a hydrogen bomb, he said.
The young hibakujumoku — a Japanese term for trees that survived the atomic bombing 72 years ago — was brought to Oberlin by Tomoko Watanabe, a second-generation survivor.
She co-founded the Green Legacy Hiroshima initiative, a joint project by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and ANT-Hiroshima. It was established to spread the seeds and saplings of Hiroshima’s A-bomb trees worldwide.
Oberlin College biology professor Mary Garvin and many students took care of the seedling over the past two years.
The trees represent the resilience of nature and serve as a warning about mass destruction and the dangers of nuclear weapons, said Ann Sherif, professor of East Asian studies.
“The gingko saplings recently planted here are small, vulnerable thirsting for rain, and also facing a cold, harsh, Northeast Ohio winter,” she said. “We are here to confirm our commitment to nurturing the trees, to knowing their histories, and to learning about human beings’ complex and violent histories and relationships with nature.”
She read a poem called “Planting Trees” by Wendell Berry before introducing college president Carmen Ambar, who lived with a host family in Japan during high school.
She remembers visiting a museum in Hiroshima and seeing the “shadow” of a victim that was burned onto the steps.
“I remember being really moved by that experience and thinking to myself about the resilience of the human spirit,” she said. “Some of what we’re celebrating today is our commitment to ensuring that our environment is resilient as well.”
Ambar and Kaya Sakakibara, the daughter of Chie Sakakibara, assistant professor of environmental studies, helped water and soil the soon-to-be towering tree.
A message from the co-founders of Green Legacy Hiroshima was read in Japanese and English by Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura, an employee with the college’s career development center.
“The survivor trees of Hiroshima silently, patiently, and nobly keep reminding us of fundamental questions about the survival of humans in the Nuclear Age — but also about the way we conduct ourselves in this world with regard to nature and one another,” he read. “For us, the love of nature and the love of other humans are intertwined. This message has never been more important or more urgent. May many hear it.”
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.