Event commemorating Hiroshima Day, pro-peace work of Bernard Lown is set for Saturday

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Aug. 3—LEWISTON — An event commemorating Hiroshima Day and the pro-peace advocacy of Dr. Bernard Lown will be held Saturday at the Gendron Franco Center at 10 a.m.

The event will start with a gathering at the center at 46 Cedar St. before moving to the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge, where observances will be held at the monument to Lown until 11:30 a.m.

Among the speakers will be Laurent Gilbert Sr., former mayor of Lewiston who campaigned to rename the bridge in Lown's honor, Doug Dransfeld, M.D., head of the Maine chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and others who will discuss the perils of nuclear weapons and the roles doctors play in maintaining world peace.

The short film "DR. LOWN: A Documentary," which documents the collaboration between United States and Soviet physicians for peace, will be shown prior to the observances at the Peace Bridge.

Lown was a famed cardiologist who invented the direct current defibrillator in 1962. He emigrated from Lithuania to the United States and graduated from Lewiston High School in 1938. He died in February 2021.

Lown was outspoken against the use of nuclear weapons in conflict, and founded the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with Soviet cardiologist Eugene Chazov in 1980. The duo would win the Nobel Peace Prize five years later.

The Bernard Lown Bridge was named for Lown in 2008 after a campaign led by Gilbert and Allen Harvie of Auburn. Lown died of congestive heart failure in 2021 at age 99.

Saturday's event also coincides with the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, which resulted in the deaths of 20,000 Japanese soldiers and nearly 176,000 civilians.

"When we formed Veterans for Peace in 1985 here in Maine, we were, and still are, thinking of the children whose lives are impacted by war," said Doug Rawlings, one of the organizers of the event, in a statement released Tuesday. "Many of us, as veterans, looked into the eyes of these children. On August 6, 1945, the bomb was dropped on the children of Hiroshima at 8:15 AM, just as they were settling into their classrooms."

Origami paper cranes, known as "peace cranes," will be distributed at the event. The cranes are a worldwide peace symbol representing the one thousand origami cranes folded by Sadako Sasaki, a 12-year-old girl who died of leukemia in 1955 as a result of the Hiroshima bombing.

"The days of nuclear destruction of two Japanese cities by the U.S. Government were the episodes which launched the era of nuclear war that threatened extinction of life on Earth. We'd like to honor the work done by Dr. Lown and Larry Gilbert's efforts to dedicate the bridge, and the real issue is the urgency of no war and certainly no nuclear weapons. This pertains particularly to the war in Ukraine right now. A mistake or disorientation could get us into a nuclear conflict," said Tom Whitney of South Paris, who assisted in organizing the event.

Organizers require that attendees wear facial coverings for the activities inside the Gendron Franco Center.