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Views of the A-Bomb Dome, on the Edge of Peace Park

August 7, 1995

HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) _ In recent days it has been the scene of an American Indian peace dance, a rally of anarchists waving a skull-and-crossbones flag, die-ins, fasts, prayers and tears.

Here on the edge of Peace Park is the A-Bomb Dome, a drab former industrial hall that somehow remained standing after the atomic bomb obliterated everyone inside it and almost everything around it 50 years ago.

As Hiroshima’s premier symbol, it has been drawing tens of thousands of visitors daily. On the 50th anniversary of the bombing Sunday, tourists crowded around snapping pictures or offering flowers late into the night.

``It is so much more powerful when you see it with your own eyes,″ said Saburo Yoshida, 59. ``To see it like this, in this condition, is overwhelming.″

The A-Bomb Dome has been kept in roughly the same state it was in after the bombing, when it stood alone in a wasteland of rubble and death. It has since been renovated to seal cracks and install steel supports.

Originally completed in 1915, the three-story brick building, capped by a large dome in the center of its roof, had several names before finally being dubbed the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.

It was only 160 yards from ground zero, where ``Little Boy,″ the atomic bomb dropped from the Enola Gay, exploded. The blast melted or ignited most of the interior of the building, and all people inside were killed.

Today, tourists are not allowed to enter the dome. On the fence around it, however, hang colorful folded paper cranes, which are believed to be auspicious, and patchwork quilts with anti-war or anti-nuclear messages.

Sunday night, as thousands of paper lanterns representing the spirits of the dead floated in the Motoyasu River behind the dome, several young women from Tokyo looked at the building and bowed their heads in prayer.

``It’s beautiful,″ said one. ``But in a very sad way.″

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