Ties between Oak Ridge and Japan go back to the nuclear devastation of World War II. Over the decades, a volatile relationship has been repaired through good will and a peace bell that hangs in Bissell Park. City leaders acknowledge the bell, and that relationship are now more important than ever after Japan was rocked by a 9.0 earthquake and parts of it were destroyed by a subsequent tsunami last week.
"It's a symbol of friendship, and beyond the politics of it, we made friends with many, many people in that city," said Mayor Tom Beehan.
Oak Ridge's sister city, Naka, Japan, sits inland, just north of Tokyo, in part of the country that was rattled by last week's earthquake. It's also Japan's research hub for atomic energy, much like Oak Ridge is for the United States.
Mayor Tom Beehan said he's been in contact with Naka's Mayor and other friends who live there. He said the earthquake registered 6.0 in Naka, causing some disruption, but not mass casualties like other towns on the north coast have experienced.
"They're saying there has been a lack of water. There are lines at gas stations. Someone told us there was a concern about a bridge in and out, so you try to piece it all together," said Mayor Beehan.
The Mayor met with officials from Y-12 and ORNL Tuesday afternoon to discuss ways the City of Oak Ridge can help Naka. Mayor Beehan said he wants whatever they do to be meaningful and not superficial.