SOMERS POINT — Shiho Burke’s family was ravaged when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Her father, Toru Kikuzaki, lost a sister and eventually died from cancer believed to have been caused by the radiation from the blast. Her mother, Mizuha Kikuzaki, lost her father and all three of her siblings.

Their families had their wealth virtually wiped out and had to sell their belongings as they struggled to rebuild not only their lives but their communities.

Today at St. Joseph Church, Burke, who lives in Somers Point, will tell her parents’ stories during the Coalition for Peace and Justice’s annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration in hopes of preventing similar tragedies from happening again.

“You just can’t bring enough attention to this,” Burke said. “People think it’s gone, but it isn’t.”

This year’s commemoration — which promotes the global abolishment of nuclear weapons — is the 30th for the coalition, a chapter of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action.

Norm Cohen, the coalition’s executive director, said the group’s efforts began during the early 1980s, amid the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — but that in many ways, the threat of nuclear weapons is worse today than it was then.

“Back then, it was just us and Russia. Now we’ve also got rogue states with nuclear weapons and a greater threat from terrorists,” Cohen said. “And the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima is very small compared to what we have now.”

Even though it is not a religious event, St. Joseph Church is a fitting place for the commemoration to be held. The Rev. Robert Gregorio, the Roman Catholic church’s senior priest, was a member of the Vatican delegation to the United Nations in 2001 and 2002, which lobbied for a nuclear freeze.

Gregorio admitted that the delegation fell short of its goal but said the Vatican and groups such as the Coalition for Peace and Justice continue striving for that “idealistic hope.”

“It is not impossible,” Gregorio said. “They did the thing with poison gas, which now isn’t used. If the same thing can be done with nuclear weapons, that certainly would be doing something good.”

Burke, who served as a translator during previous commemorations, said she felt like it was her duty to share her parents’ story.

“There are not many survivors still alive. So now it’s up to the next generation to help people remember,” said Burke, who is working on a book about her mother’s life.

When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, about 8:15 a.m., Burke’s father was home sick from school. The boy he was supposed to walk to school with was one of the more than 166,000 people killed — nearly half of the city’s population — during the initial blast and subsequent radiation.

The stomachache kept Toru Kikuzaki — who went on to become a professional baseball player, then a businessesman — several miles from ground zero.

Mizuha Kikuzaki went to school that day.

Her radiation poisoning caused doctors to believe she would never have children or that any children she did have would be born with defects. But, after miscarrying five times, she finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Shiho — the couple’s only child.

Despite the devastating impact on her life, Mizuha does not resent the United States for its attack, Burke said. If anything, Burke said, Mizuha was disappointed her own country did not concede the war sooner.

“She felt if you keep hating and resenting people, and looking for them to pay for what they have done, it just creates more hate. You have to forget,” Burke said. “That is my mother, a testimony to forgiveness.”

And, at 78, Mizuha still lives in Hiroshima and has outlived many other survivors. But she does not speak publicly about the bombing — she leaves that to her daughter.

“That’s all I can do. I almost feel that it’s my mission,” said Burke, herself a mother of three. “Hopefully my kids will do the same.”

Contact Rob Spahr:

609-272-7147

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30th annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration

Hosted by the Coalition for Peace and Justice

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: St. Joseph Church, 606 Shore Road, Somers Point

For more information, call Norm Cohen at 609-335-8176.

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