Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) was a Japanese girl who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, near her home by
Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan. Sadako is remembered through the story of a thousand origami cranes before her death, and is to this day a symbol of innocent victims
of war. Sadako was at home, about two kilometers from ground zero, when the explosion blew her out of the window. Her mother ran out to find her, suspecting she might be
dead, but found her alive. In November 1954, Sadako developed swellings on her neck and behind her ears. In January 1955, purple spots had formed on her legs.
Subsequently, she was diagnosed with leukemia (her mother referred to it as "an atom bomb disease"). She was hospitalized on February 21, 1955, and given, at the most,
a year to live. Several years after the atomic bomb, an increase in leukemia was observed especially among children. By the early 1950s it was clear that the leukemia was
caused by radiation exposure. On August 3, 1955, Sadako's best friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, came to the hospital to visit, and cut a gold piece of paper into a square to fold
it into a paper crane, in reference to the ancient Japanese story that promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. A
popular version of the story is that Sadako fell short of her goal of folding 1,000 cranes, having folded only 644 before her death, and that her friends completed the 1,000 and
buried them all with her. This comes from the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. An exhibit which appeared in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum stated
that by the end of August 1955, Sadako had achieved her goal and continued to fold more cranes. Though she had plenty of free time during her days in the hospital to fold
the cranes, she lacked paper. She would use medicine wrappings and whatever else she could scrounge up. This included going to other patients' rooms to ask to use the
paper from their get-well presents. Chizuko would bring paper from school for Sadako to use. Her brother Masahiro promised to hang every paper crane she folded. During
her time in the hospital her condition progressively worsened. Around mid-October her left leg became swollen and turned purple. After her family urged her to eat something,
Sadako requested tea on rice and remarked "It's good." Those were her last words. With her family around her, Sadako died on the morning of October 25, 1955 at the age
of 12.After her death, Sadako's friends and schoolmates published a collection of letters in order to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died
from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At the foot of the statue is a
plaque that reads: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. For Building peace in the world."
There is also a statue of her in the Seattle Peace Park. Sadako has become a leading symbol of the impact of nuclear war. Sadako is also a heroine for many girls in Japan.
Her story is told in some Japanese schools and many Canadian ones on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. Dedicated to Sadako, people all over Japan celebrate
August 6 as the annual peace day.