Paper birds in NY

I guess all of us have many vivid images from the terrorist attacks on 9-11 in New York and of the days after. I guess some of them are of the hundreds of candles and pictures of the missing ones. Images such as the ones below:      

Images from Ground Zero.


That fence in the picture is at Saint Paul’s Chapel, just across from where the World Trade Center once stood. That chapel was as well the place where many of the people working in the site in those days found relief.     

Last December, Luca and I went to New York, and this chapel was among the places we wanted to visit. It was a very moving experience. Let me focus on one thing I found inside. In the following picture you see strings of colourful folded paper birds inside the chapel…     

Paper birds in Saint Paul's Chapel.


I didn’t know I would find this, so it immediately rang a bell, as it was something I had learnt not so long before.     

Japanese call to the tradition of folding papers origami. There, the most famous design is that of the Japanese crane, a long-necked bird.     

The first time I saw such paper birds was in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park, in the summer of 2008.    

Hiroshima Peace Memorial park paper cranes.


Let me paste here the explanation given by Wikipedia on the legend of these paper crane birds:    

Legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true. The origami crane has become a symbol of peace because of this legend, and because of a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was exposed to the radiation of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as an infant, and it took its inevitable toll on her health. She was then a hibakusha — an atom bomb survivor. By the time she was twelve in 1955, she was dying of leukemia. Hearing the legend, she decided to fold one thousand origami cranes so that she could live. However, when she saw that the other children in her ward were dying, she realized that she would not survive and wished instead for world peace and an end to suffering.     

A popular version of the tale is that Sadako folded 644 cranes before she died; her classmates then continued folding cranes in honor of their friend. She was buried with a wreath of 1,000 cranes to honor her dream. While her effort could not extend her life, it moved her friends to make a granite statue of Sadako in the Hiroshima Peace Park: a young girl standing with her hand outstretched, a paper crane flying from her fingertips. Every year the statue is adorned with thousands of wreaths of a thousand origami cranes.     

The tale of Sadako has been dramatized in many books and movies. In one version, Sadako wrote a haiku that translates into English as:     

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.  

This is how the cranes flew from Hiroshima to New York; unfortunately peace hasn’t reached that far.

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One response to “Paper birds in NY

  1. Pingback: Hiroshima and the Enola Gay | The Blog by Javier

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