The tree, planted in the rose garden in Eisenhower Park near the gazebo and fountain, should provide additional beauty and continue to solidify the relationship. Abilene has had a sister city relationship for more than 25 years with the community in Japan. Abilene’s sister city first started with Minori then when the boundaries were formed with two other Japanese communities, it forged a tie with the newly formed Omitama.
The Rev. Jerry Rankin said it was appropriate to remember the relationship. He said Sunday’s gathering came in a time of joy and celebration and at the same time it was an important to remember the impact of the earthquake in early March that struck Japan. He said the sister city joins in remembering the toll that earthquake took on Japan. Omitama was spared but residents had friends and family members who knew of those who perished, lost their possessions or their sense of security.
He said it was appropriate to pray for those in the armed forces, relief agencies and the Japanese people who are undergoing tremendous hardship.
Rankin said it was appropriate to remember those who are trying to clean up the nuclear power plants that were damaged by the earthquake and workers who are trying to control the dangerous radioactive materials.
“They may pay with their lives,” he said.
Abilene vice mayor Lynn Peterson said it was nice to see more than 30 people turn out for the tree planting. Many of those who were in attendance had either traveled overseas or helped with visitations with delegations from Minori or Omitama.
“You think of all the children who came over here,” he said. “I think it has helped to have a better understanding between the two countries and with the people of Japan, Omitama and Minori and we have generated a lifelong friendship.”
Rankin said the the purpose of planting the flowering cherry blossom trees, which are a favorite among Omitama residents, has several meanings.
“It is beautiful,” he said. “It is also has transient blooms, which means they come on and they fall off and disappear. The Japanese can find a sense of beauty in them, like life. The lesson from the Japanese is they want us to enjoy the moment of it, the present, and not worry about tthe future. The tree is a sign of hope for the living.”
Rankin said Kansans learn to plant trees for the future. His hope was the tree and the others that will be planted will be appreciated by future generations.
The trees will grow to about 35 to 50 feet tall, he said.
Several events are going on to help remember what the Japanese have gone through from the 9.0 earthquake and accompanying tsunamis, he said. Abilene High School student Sarah Zey is selling wrist bands for a suggested cost of $5. Also, a benefit concert is planned for 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Great Plains Theater, 300 N. Mulberry. Admission is $10 a person and a family plan is being developed, said Tim Nolan, one of the organizers. Twelve performers are expected to attend. There will be a silent auction and food will be available as Japanese specialities will be prepared.