Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. Sadako's home was about a mile from the epicenter, and her family survived. When she was an eleven-year-old school athlete, she began to experience weakness, lumps on her neck, and spots on her legs. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, with a life expectancy of a year. She spent the next eight months in a hospital.
During that time, she heard about the Japanese legend that says if you fold a thousand paper cranes, your wish will come true. Sadako began folding cranes whenever she could get paper or other materials. Some versions of Sadako's story say she failed in her attempt, and that her friends completed the thousand cranes, but most historical sources say she completed her mission, and made 1300 cranes. Sadako died on October 25, 1955.
But Sadako lives on, after the jump.
Sadako's friends and classmates published a book containing her letters in order to raise funds for a memorial to Sadako and other children who died in the wake of the atomic bomb. Donations came in from 3,100 schools in Japan and from nine other countries. The Children's Peace Monument, featuring a statue of Sadako holding a crane, was offically unveiled on May 5, 1958 in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
There are display cases surrounding the monument in Hiroshima containing the many paper cranes (around ten million a year) still offered by people all over the world. The Children's Peace Monument accepts cranes by mail. Here are intructions for making an origami crane.
At least two children's books were written about Sadako,
Sadako Will Leben (Sadako Wants To Live) by Austrain author Karl Bruckner in 1961, and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by American author Eleanor Coerr in 1977 (also available on video). Rasul Gamzatov wrote his epic poem Zhuravli (The Cranes) in honor of Sadako. It was later adapted into a popular Russian song. The jazz-fusion band Hiroshima have a song called Thousand Cranes inspired by the story. 1000 Cranes Business Consulting named their company after the Sadako story.
In 1989, elementary students at Arroyo del Oso School in Albuquerque designed and created the The Children's Peace Statue. The statue is on display at the Ghost Ranch in Santa Fe.
Another Sadako-inspired organization, The World Peace Project for Children in Washington state was founded in 1997 to promote communication between children of different cultures. Their projects include a children's peace choir and a peace club.