Ashland resident Walt Marsh was baling hay in a Missouri field when another boy came running out to tell him that atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
That memory came rushing back to Marsh, 80, this morning as he walked Nuclear Alley, a display set up in the plaza by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the bombings.
"I don't think we really had any idea what an atomic bomb was," Marsh said, recalling the day he found out the bombs had been dropped. "But we knew that it had done a bunch of damage and that it would probably end the war."
Today is an opportunity for locals to learn more about the bombings and recent events involving nuclear weapons, said Jill Mackie, chairwoman of the event.
"We wanted to show the past and what our future will be," she said.
The Nuclear Alley display will remain in the plaza until 7 p.m.
This morning peace activists held a ceremony to remember those affected by the bombings.
At 8 a.m., Ashland residents Nancy Spencer, whose two brothers were in Japan when the bombs were dropped, and Noah Sohl, an Ashland High School senior involved in the peace movement, lit a memorial candle.
The crowd observed a moment of silence at 8:15, the exact time the bomb was detonated by the U.S. above the city of Hiroshima.
After, Mayor John Stromberg read the city's 1981 proclamation designating Ashland as a nuclear-free zone.
On Sunday, the date of the bombing of Nagasaki, there will be a ceremony at 3 p.m. at the Japanese Garden in Lithia Park. Local activists will float sunflowers, the symbol of the nuclear-free movement, down Ashland Creek.
As he strolled through Nuclear Alley this morning, Marsh recalled how much times have changed since the bombs were dropped.
"It's so easy to say now, 'We shouldn't have done it,' he said. "But if President Truman had taken a vote, asking people, 'Should we use these bombs?' I think the vote would have been, 'Yes.'
"And I'm sorry to say that."
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.