Yesterday I read the story of Sadako Sasaki of Hiroshima and her now famous goal of folding a Thousand Paper Cranes in hopes of recovering from the disease of leukemia brought on by the radiation from the A-Bomb that was dropped on her town when she was just two years old.
Hiroshima and the A-bomb can be an overwhelming subject. Personal stories like Sadako's can make the event seem real almost 70 years later. The impact of Sadako's story and the thousands of children whose lives were forever changed that day allow a connection to the school children today in Japan and across the world when they read her story.
The Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park is filled with statues and monuments made of stone and marble. The museum is a thoughtful recounting of the events of August 6, 1945 and the days and year after. There is a monument dedicated to the 20,00 Koreans that lost their lives that day, an eternal flame that burns in honor of the departed and the skeleton of a building that remains a 4-story reminder of the destruction that occurred on that day.
But the Children's Peace Monument that was erected in Sadako's honor is an active, living part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Even today school children from around the world are moved by the story of Sadako and her young, spirited life taken too soon, so much so that they too work to fold thousands of paper cranes to be placed at the memorial in her honor. You can see their work in the pictures below. There are just a few shots here but there are several large cases surrounding the statue that are filled with crane mobiles sent in from around the world.
My guess is the each year, around August 6th there is an increase in paper cranes delivered from school children around Japan as the country stops to remember 'that day' and pay homage to Sadako. But what about the ones from Australia? France? Germany? Were they inspired by young visitors to the monument that were so moved they started working on the cranes when they returned? Did teachers introduce the story to their classes and as a group were inspired to send their own message of peace to the people of Hiroshima? Were they hand delivered or mailed? No matter how they got there, they keep coming. The active monument to peace coupled with the tragic story of Sadako's short life keeps the message of peace alive in Hiroshima and across the world.
It's heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time.