Sadako Sasaki, little boy, and one thousand cranes

War is not healthy for children and other living beings. For the people who lived in and around Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in the late summer of 1945 that was poignantly true. Sadako Sasaki was one of the people who lived near Hiroshima. She was born on January 7, 1943 in Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan. On August 6, 1945, Sadako was just about two and a half years old, she was playing at home on that day when the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb euphemistically called ‘little boy’ on Hiroshima. Sadako’s home was about one mile from Ground Zero. That day she and her family lived.

About nine years later when she was eleven, in November 1954, Sadako notice some swelling on her neck and behind her ears. A few months later in January 1955, one of her friends pointed out some purple spots on Sadako’s legs. Her parents took her to see a doctor who diagnosed her with leukemia. Sadako’s mother called her daughter’s illness an atomic bomb disease, everyone in the area knew that leukemia was caused by the effects of radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima. On February 21, 1955, just a month after Sadako turned 12 she had to be hospitalized. Sadako and her parents were told that she had one year at the most left of her life.

Sadako was a bright and happy child. She easily made friends and was well liked among the other students in her school. So of course when she was in the hospital her friends would come to visit with her. One of her friends reminded her of the Japanese legend which promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted their dearest wish by a crane. (In Japan cranes, tortoises and dragons are revered as mystical and holy creatures.) The legend has it that cranes live for 1,000 years, and that is why 1,000 origami cranes must be folded within one year in order to receive the wish, or in some versions to receive eternal good luck.

Once she was reminded of the legend of the crane, Sadako began to fold origami cranes with hope and determination. Her wish was to live. She folded paper cranes with focus and diligence, with patience and resolve. Between late February 1955 and late October 1955, in just 8 short months, Sadako folded 644 origami cranes. As October wore on Sadako became too weak to fold cranes anymore. On October 25, 1955 Sadako died. Sadako died, but not her dreams. Her family and friends carried Sadako’s dream forward. They finished folding the 1000 cranes and buried them with her. That was something. But it was not enough.

Sadako’s family and friends wanted her dream, and the dreams of all the children who died from the effects of the atomic bombs dropped by the United States, to live on. The children, families, and teachers from Sadako’s school worked together to raise the funds to build a memorial to Sadako and to all of the other children who suffered and died from atomic bomb radiation poisoning. In 1958 a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled as part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial within the Hiroshima Peace Park. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.” The city of Hiroshima maintains a web page for the Peace Park at http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html. You should check it out!

War is not healthy for children and other living things. So proclaimed the poster fashioned by the group “Another Mother for Peace (AMP) a grass-roots anti-war advocacy group founded in 1967 in opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam. That poster carried me through high school, it so resonated with me that I replicated it with indelible felt markers on my bedroom wall. Nearly fifty years later, you would think we would have gotten the veracity of that assertion! War really is not healthy for children and other living things. The life of Sadako Sasaki stands as a witness to just how not healthy war is for children. Let us work for peace with every breath. We can begin by folding paper cranes, 1000 paper cranes, until they nest in our hearts. With each breath, may our intentions take wing and fly, let us work for peace.

There are some directions for how to fold a crane at WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Fold-a-Paper-Crane . . .

 

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