August 6 marks the 65th anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb. On that day, two-year-old Sadako Sasaki and her family survived, but 10 years later she was diagnosed with terminal leukemia due to exposure to radiation. In her final months, Sadako folded origami paper cranes with the goal of reaching 1,000 (there was a Japanese legend that if you reached 1,000, your wish would be granted). Sadako’s wish: world peace.
Sadako never reached that goal: she died at age 12 in 1955. But after her death, her school friends carried on with her quest, and eventually were able to raise support to build a peace memorial in her honor in Hiroshima.
Today, children from around the world send folded paper cranes to the memorial and to members of the 1000 Crane Club at Hiroshima International School. The club members place them at the memorial. There’s also a Sadako Peace Park in Seattle. Communities all over have created parks and “gardens for peace” (click here and here for a map and list). I was excited to see that a group in Atlanta [my hometown] a group put together a downloadable map of all the peace gardens and monuments in town: you can download the Atlanta Peace Trails map here).
I don’t know if we’ll ever get to visit one of Sadako’s parks, but last year we decided to make a peace garden of our own in the backyard. A peace garden could include anything, but I always liked the symbolism of the peace pole, so we made one. You can find instructions on making your own peace pole here, as well as templates with “may peace prevail” written in a dozen languages.
Sadako and the Paper Cranes is an great book to introduce kids to Sadako’s story. It’s really inspiring for them to know that kids can have an impact. The World Peace Prayer Society also has a web site with stories from around the world about people, instructions about doing a peace pole project, and a link to the Peace Pals project for kids.
So, today we’ll make some paper cranes (instructions here) and remember Sadako and her do what we can to make her wish come true.