Sadako Sasaki was two years old on August 6, 1945, when an American atomic bomb named Little Boy was dropped on her city of Hiroshima. Years later she could remember that day: “There was a flash, like a million suns, then a heat that felt like pricking needles.” And then the black rain began to fall. As many as eighty thousand people died from the immediate blast or resulting fire, but Sadako was not immediately among them. Her mother found her safe and unharmed. She grew and appeared to be a healthy child, but nine years later she was found to be suffering from acute leukemia—most likely a result of her exposure to radiation. She was hospitalized in February 1955.
From an older child in the hospital Sadako learned the legend that whoever folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish. In her remaining months of life she dedicated herself to this project, scrounging paper wherever she could find it. By the end of August she had achieved her goal. Still, however, she continued to fold the cranes until she became too weak. And then her classmates carried on her task. She died on October 25, 1955, at the age of twelve.
“This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.”
—Inscription on a monument in Hiroshima dedicated to Sadako Sasaki