On Aug. 6, the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Homer Public Library’s Kevin Co, curator of the Heiwa or “Peace” tree, was joined by a small group of community members to harvest a sprout from the library’s existing ginkgo tree and create a new plant for the community to share.
The original tree was provided by seeds from Hiroshima, Japan, by Steve Yoshida, a long-time resident of Homer, retired lawyer and former member of the local Rotary Club who now lives in Hawaii and is still a U.S. Heiwa leader.
Initially, the Rotary Club in Soldotna had an interest in a tree and Yoshida provided seeds to them. When Yoshida came across a display of “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” that Co had set up at the Homer Public Library, he introduced the idea of sponsoring a ginkgo in the library.
“I tracked him down and asked if he would like a tree to add to his exhibit and he agreed,” Yoshida said.
Now, the tree planted four years ago is providing new life.
“About a month ago the library staff noticed that there was one little branch emerging from the existing tree that would make a perfect new tree. I collected some soil from the Wagon Wheel and we’re going to replant this second sprout and make a new dedication to peace altogether,” Co said.
Co said he thinks of the first Heiwa tree as a “survivor.”
“It survived the worst that humanity could throw at it,” he said. “It’s just a little thing we can do to continue to nurture along, this is the message tree gives to me.
“To share it is to show that we can survive this. If we can nurture each other along, just a little bit, we can help. All of us are here because of the direct sacrifices of our ancestors. We need to find places where we can plant these seeds and grow something better.”
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Homer and Teshio, Japan, sister city relationship. Megumi Beams is the Sister City liaison/interpreter and Japanese International Exchange coordinator for the city of Homer and was present at the tree planting event on Sunday. The sister city relationship has endured several generations and there were many participants at the peace tree planting to ensure the relationship continues.
Rachel Tussey, also present at the Sunday event, was the last Homer exchange student with Teshio in 2005.
Yoshida said Sunday that he is trying to establish a second home for an exchange student in Hiroshima.
“You can’t just go to Teshio and assume you’ve seen Japan,” he said. “Hiroshima is a beautiful city with a lot of meaning and we have a home on an island near there.
“We’d like to invite some people to visit there, too. It would be wonderful to be able to tie the three communities together.”
Co will care for the small sprout in the back of the library until it is strong enough to find a place out in the open to share with others.