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Marchers Had Many Reasons

by Sandy Cooch
The Herald (Randolph), August 20, 1998

   The cold war is over, but the nuclear weapons threat isn’t; and now is the right time to close this planet’s nuclear weapons era.

   That was the basic message carried by the 60 or so folks who trekked through Randolph; Bethel, Royalton, and Sharon this week, as part of the 93-mile Vermont Walk of Nuclear Abolition. The march, which started Aug. 15 in Montpelier, ends tomorrow in Springfield.

   Churches, organizations and individuals in the area offered rest stops, meals, and housing to the group as it worked its way through the White River Valley.

   A nuclear-free world by the year 2000 is the goal, said marcher Lee Terhune of Colchester on Monday morning in Randolph, just before the group was about to set off on day three of the walk, a 15-mile stretch to South Royalton.

   “That’s not so unrealistic as it might seem at first,” added Terhune. “Ninety-five percent of the countries in the world are already nuclear-free.”

   Fifteen years ago, when both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were still adding to their already massive nuclear weapons stockpiles, opponents of nuclear proliferation united on a single theme: We can already destroy the world many times over; this is crazy; let’s stop.

   The issues today are far more complex. They range from raising support for non-proliferation treaties, to dealing with the decommissioning and storage of weapons and nuclear plant wastes, to the new threat of testing in India. Pakistan, and Iraq, says Joe Gainza. Gainza of the Vermont Chapter of the American Friends Service, Committee, was one of the chief organizers of this week walk.

   According to Gainza however, the objective is still clear.

   "Abolish the weapons – that has to be the goal. Until they’re gone, there will continue to be a proliferation of nuclear states.”

Nuclear Power, Too

   However, many participants in this week's walk--including several folks from Texas, which is slated to receive Vermont Yankee's nuclear wastes--were more focused on abolishing "the called peaceful use of the atom--nuclear power."

   Terhune said she was concerned about cost, safety, and ethical issues surrounding nuclear waste disposal, as well as the fact that the reactive materials used at plants can be used to manufacture weapons.

   If the issues are diverse, so were walkers' reasons for joining in for all or part of the six-day walk.

   The dozens of marchers gathered in front of Randolph's Bethany Church Monday morning, ranging in age from under 10 in 83, were happy to share their stories.

   Maryanne Zavez of Randolph said that she and her daughters read about the walk in the "Peace and Justice News," and "decided we would do it if we could."

   Emma Zavez, 12, who regularly reads the monthly publication, said of nuclear weapons, "I really don't think we need them."

   “It’s a waste of money and its disgusting,” contributed Rachel DiStefano, 9. "Nine and a half," she amended.

   Roddy O’Neil Cleary, a gray-haired woman from Burlington, said she came for the day "because I resent all the money spent storing weapons -- literally billions of dollars. The money, Cleary feels, would be better spent on health, education and welfare issues

   Marlys Eddy of Randolph, a UVM student, said she hoped the walk would raise awareness of nuclear issues among non-marchers.

   Walking for peace is nothing new for Buddhist nun, Jun Yasuda of the Grafton, N.Y. Peace Pagoda.

Buddhist Focus

   "I have been walking with same focus for 20 years, it is our Buddhist focus,” said Japanese-born Yasuda.

   Yusuda, however, wasn't promoting policy. Her focus is the human heart and mind.

   She has traveled worldwide, she said, and “everywhere, people are so beautiful."

   "We don't need to be afraid of other people," she states.

   How best, then, to help?

   “Just practice taking care of other people," said Yasuda, "and try to open up mind."

   "Jesus already give message, so simple. Still people are so afraid--or they want too Much to make money"

   Vincent Romano of Nyack, N.Y. said he came up in join the walk out of a "general and deep-rooted opposition to nuclear power and weapons." The walk, he said, “is a way to express my belief and faith that if we are committed and keep working hard, we will all see the end of the nuclear threat."

   Ruth Painter of Williston admitted that this was her first walk--and her first big stand on an issue.

   "I didn't go the Washington for the civil rights marches, though I always wanted to. I’m 71: It's time I got started, don't you think?"

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