“I want to live”

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Paper cranes decorate the sign at the main Hiroshima train station
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Even the man-hole covers in Hiroshima are covered in paper cranes

As I mentioned yesterday, the paper crane has become a symbol of Hiroshima. Much of that association can be traced to a young girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was 2 years old when the atomic bomb destroyed her city, and she developed leukemia as a result of her exposure to the nuclear radiation almost a decade later. As her physical condition worsened, she set out to fold origami paper cranes because a friend had told her an old Japanese legend that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako’s wish was to live.

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Sadako in April 1949 when she entered elementary school, on display in the Atomic Bomb Museum
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Sadako in March 1955, on display in the Atomic Bomb Museum
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Sadako with her mother in summer 1955, taken in the Atomic Bomb Museum

Unfortunately Sadako succumbed to her illness in 1955 when she was 12 years old. She did complete about 1,400 paper cranes, some of which are on display at the Atomic Bomb Museum in Hiroshima. Her friends folded another 1,000 cranes that were buried with her.

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A few of the cranes Sadako folded, on display in the Atomic Bomb Museum
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Paper cranes distributed at Sadako’s funeral, on display in the Atomic Bomb Museum
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More cranes Sadako folded, on display in the Atomic Bomb Museum

Since her death, Sadako has become an important symbol for the innocent lives claimed by nuclear war, always closely associated with paper cranes. To this day, children send thousands of paper cranes to Hiroshima each year in her honor. Many of these cranes are recycled into postcards that are given to museum visitors in the hope that they will send the postcard throughout the world to encourage peace. In 1958, the city unveiled a special monument to the children claimed by the nuclear bomb, and an image of Sadako stands at its center.

Title quote: Sadako Sasaki, as her motivation to fold paper cranes

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Children’s Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Park
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Children’s Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Park

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