1,000 paper cranes
At least 1,000 colorful cranes hung from the hallway ceiling at St. John’s Lutheran School near Lanesville at the end of school last month.
They were hand-folded by fourth graders who learned the art of origami. It was a feat they decided to do after reading the book ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.’
Tara Adams said it took about a month for her and her 15 classmates to fold the colorful birds into various sizes.
Rachel Patrick said they finished the project on May 19; they had about a dozen more than their goal of 1,000.
‘I thought we’d get to about 600 or 700,’ said Jonathon Sieg, ‘but I never thought we’d get to 1,000.’
The hardest part, said Amanda Arthur, was making the head and the rear, and having to turn them inside out. ‘It’s not as easy as it looks,’ she said.
Brian Oberdieck said his students were inspired to complete the project by the non-fiction book’s main character, Sadako Sasaki, who was born in Japan in 1943.
Sadako was a fast runner who ‘always dreamed about running in a relay and beating the boys,’ said Caryn Eisert. Sadako was eventually chosen to be on a relay team. But what happened in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, prevented the young girl from fulfilling her dream.
‘She remembers seeing the bomb hit the ground,’ said Zachary Lambertus, referring to the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in an attempt to end World War II.
In the book, Sadako described the bombing as a ‘flash of a million suns. Then the heat prickled my eyes like needles.’
Sadako’s grandmother died soon after the atom bomb explosion, said Emma Bays.
Kendra Smith said Sadako was hospitalized for many months when she became ill, diagnosed with leukemia. While she was a patient, Sadako’s best friend since kindergarten, Chizuko, told her about the folklore of the paper cranes: the gods would grant her wish and make her well again if she folded 1,000 of them. Chizuko gave Sadako her first bird ‘ a golden crane.
Sadako believed in superstitions, said Spencer Bunting, and so she started making origami cranes. After each one was complete, Sadako said, ‘I wish I’d get better.’
Oberdieck’s students learned that origami is difficult at first. But by the time Sadako had done 300, the cranes were perfectly folded.
After she had made another 322, Sadako was allowed to visit her home for a while, arriving on ‘O Bon,’ the biggest holiday of the year, a time of celebration for the spirits of the dead.
Her renewed health didn’t last long. Soon, Sadako was receiving blood transfusions or shots almost daily.
On Oct. 25, 1955, Sadako died as a result of radiation from the bomb, said Jake Kessinger. She had folded 644 cranes.
Sadako’s classmates folded the remaining 356 and buried all 1,000 with their friend.
The Lanesville students decided to form an assembly line to make their cranes, said David Allen, which sped up the process. Some were made from actual origami paper, others were made from scrap paper. It took about a week to string them together, added Anna Ingle.
Olivia Bays said the birds would be taken down at the end of the school year, packaged and sent to the United Nations. Alyssa Walther said the students wrote a letter, written by consensus, to the United Nations. They identified themselves (each signed the letter), told where they are from, and told about the book.
After giving a brief summary of Sadako’s life, the students wrote, ‘There are still dangers from nuclear radiation to peace and health today. Concerns are rising, not only in the U.S., but across the world, about nuclear waste and the extent of the harm it has caused to the environment and the health of the public. We want to remind our government officials that our health and the health of our environment should always be top priority.’
They said they were writing because ‘we want to make a difference. We need protection from nuclear waste. Use of this powerful energy must be made safe. Nuclear bombs must not be used.
‘Help us and children everywhere to grow up in a world that is safe and in an environment that is clean,’ they wrote.
A similar letter was sent to President George Bush.
Clayton Blank said they hope the cranes end up on display at Peace Park in Japan, on the site of the bombing. The Children’s Peace Monument is there, unveiled in 1958, featuring a likeness of Sadako holding a golden crane in outstretched hands.
Each Aug. 6, Peace Day, members of the Folding Crane Club, formed in Sadako’s memory, place thousands of cranes beneath the statue of the young girl. They make a wish that is engraved at the base of the statue: ‘This is our cry, this is our prayer; peace in the world.’