Sixty-seven years ago this week, President Truman authorized two atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan, their first – and thankfully only – use in warfare, killing almost 200,000 people. One of those was twelve-year-old Sadako Sasaki, who was two when the bomb fell on Hiroshima. Ten years later it was discovered that she had leukemia, or the “A-bomb disease,” as a result of the radiation. While in the hospital, her friend brought her a paper crane which the Japanese called “origami,” meaning folded paper. The friend told her of a legend concerning these small pieces of paper folded in the shape of a crane. The crane, a sacred bird to the Japanese, was said to live for a hundred years, and that anyone who folded 1000 of these paper cranes would recover from any illness. Sadako folded just under 700 during her ordeal, but ultimately succumbed to the disease before finishing.
Her classmates formed the Paper Crane Club to honor her and raise money for a monument, which was erected in Hiroshima Park near the site of the bombing. To this day, origami in the shape of a crane are left at the base of the monument by visitors, and the pieces of folded paper have thus become a symbol of peace. This week, President Truman’s grandson is in Japan taking part in commemorative ceremonies. He met Sadako’s 71-year-old brother two years ago and decided to participate in efforts to deepen understanding between the United States and Japan concerning the bombings.