HONOLULU - A small paper crane folded by a 12-year-old girl who died of leukemia after the U.S. dropped an atom bomb on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, is now on display in Pearl Harbor, where the 1941 Japanese attack launched the two nations into war.
Sadako Sasaki's family donated the origami crane to promote peace and overcome the tragedies of the past.
"We have both been wounded and have suffered painfully. We don't want the children of the future to go through the same experience," said Yuji Sasaki, the girl's nephew, by telephone from Hiroshima.
Sadako Sasaki died at age 12 in 1955 from leukemia she developed after the U.S. dropped an atom bomb on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, 10 years earlier.
Sasaki family photo via AP
The crane is part of an exhibit at the visitor center at Pearl Harbor near the USS Arizona battleship that sank during the Dec. 7 bombing.
The tiny crane - it's about the size of a pinky fingernail - occupies a small corner of one of two exhibit halls at the center, which is operated by the National Park Service.
Sadako Sasaki folded between 1,000 and 2,000 of the cranes while battling leukemia in 1955 (her family never counted exactly how many) after hearing an old Japanese story that those who fold a thousand cranes are granted one wish.
The girl's wish was to get better, but she died less than three months after she started the project.
Her story has since become well-known around the world, and origami cranes have become a symbol of peace.
The family has also given a crane to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, next to ground zero in New York, and to the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution.
Yuji Sasaki said that his family wanted one crane to go to Pearl Harbor because he feels there's still a gulf between some Americans and Japanese when it comes to how the war between their two countries began and how it ended.
For example, he said, when people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki say, "No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki" to protest the use of nuclear weapons, he hears Americans reply with the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor."
The first time he witnessed an exchange like this in person, he said that he thought: "I'm not going to get people to talk about the future this way."
He hopes the crane will create opportunities for atom bomb and Pearl Harbor survivors to interact and think about one another's perspectives.
"If we are going to pave the way to peace for the children of the future, we can't pass on the grudges of the past," said Yuji Sasaki, who helps run Sadako Legacy, a nonprofit organization promoting peace and his aunt's story.
Lauren Bruner, who was a 21-year-old sailor on the Arizona on Dec. 7, welcomed the gift.
"There's always somebody that will never forgive or forget, but I think it's a nice gesture," said Bruner, who suffered burns over 70 percent of his body and lost his best friend in the bombing.
Now 92, Bruner spoke at a ceremony opening the new crane exhibit Saturday.