Thursday, October 25, 2007

October 25

Sadako Sasaki, one of the most famous victims of the Hiroshima bombing, passed away on this date in 1955, a little more than a decade after her city had been obliterated by the United States. The oldest daughter of a working class family, Sadako was only two years old when the Enola Gay released its payload; though her family survived and eventually returned to Hiroshima, the young girl eventually developed leukemia and was hospitalized in early 1955. After her friends reminded her of an old Japanese legend about a thousand-year-old crane, Sadako began making origami cranes, hoping to accumulate a thousand so that -- as the legend suggested -- she might be granted a special wish.

An exceptionally fast runner, Sadako hoped that by completing the assignment, she might be granted her wish to race again. By some accounts she reached her goal, though other versions of the story claim that she fell short by several hundred cranes. In any event, her body succumbed to leukemia -- known in Japan as "Atomic Bomb Disease" -- on October 25, 1955. Over the years, children around the world learned of Sadako Sasaki in books or in their schools, as the young girl became a symbol for the horrific cost of nuclear war. When the Children’s Peace Park opened in Hiroshima three years after her death, Sadako’s admirers across the globe began sending paper cranes of their own to be placed beside a statue erected in her honor.

Before she died, Sadako took a break from her project and wrote a haikuaddressed to her cranes:
I shall write peace upon your wings,
and you shall fly around the world
so that children will no longer have to die this way.
By the time of Sadako Sasaki’s death, as many as 200,000 Japanese had died as a result of the Hiroshima bombing.

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