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Sadako's Hope

Sadako Sasaki 12 Years Old


"Natsu Sae Chirashi"

During our recent trip to Japan, we took a couple of days and traveled south from Tokyo to the renowned city of Hiroshima. As I have always had a great interest in the events concerning the Pacific conflict of World War Two, naturally Hiroshima was a must see place for me! I have always wanted to visit the Peace Memorial and be at the very spot where history was made. While we were there, I learned of a touching story about a young girl whose struggle for life is now symbolic of a cry for peace.

Her name was Sadako Sasaki, and she lived through one of the most devastating moments in Japanese history. Her parents made their home in Hiroshima, and being only two years old at the time, she really had no understanding of the turmoil and hardship the war had plunged Japan into, nor were they remotely aware of the terrible devastation that was about to befall them.

It was a typically hot and humid summer morning on August 6th, 1945. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The day started out much like any other day as the city began to stir. The bells of the streetcars were clanging, school children in numerous small groups were playfully making their way to class, and shopkeepers prepared for what they hoped would turn out to be a very prosperous day of business.

At approximately 8:15a.m., the low droning sound of the four radial engines of a single B-29 superfortress bomber, the Enola Gay, broke through the early morning hustle and bustle of the awakening city. Many of the residents spotted it flying high overhead and remarked at what an odd site it was for a large heavy bomber to be flying all alone?! Where were the other planes? Why just one? What could it mean? Then in an instant, there was an extremely hot, bright flash of intense light, followed by the hideous blast of a searing shock wave. At that moment, everything changed, and Hiroshima was thrust into the history books as the first city ever to experience the explosion of an atomic bomb.

Sadako and her family lived approximately one mile from the hypocenter (ground zero) of the explosion of the atomic bomb known as "Little Boy." Amazingly, Sadako and her family had not been hurt by the blast, and she went on to grow into an energetic young girl who loved to run and compete in sports relay races for her school class.

Life went on about as normal as one could expect in post war Hiroshima. Construction and rebuilding were going on everywhere and new life seemed to be springing up all around her, reshaping the ruins and the rubble she had been used to seeing, into a new and vibrant city.

Then one cold day in February of 1955, the brightness of Sadako's life began to dim as she fell ill and was taken to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital where she was diagnosed with leukemia, known locally as the atom bomb disease. She was now in the sixth grade, and was just beginning to live. And even though it had been ten long years since the bombing, the curse of radiation exposure was continuing to have an effect on lives throughout the city.

Sadako was devastated by the news, and wondered how this could be happening to her. She had so many dreams and desires in life that she wanted to achieve. "It just isn't fair," she whispered to herself, as she tried hard to somehow adjust to the shock of the diagnosis and to the cold and unfamiliar hospital surroundings. Oh how she longed to be back home. She missed her family dearly.

It was like a breath of fresh air when her good friend Chizuko came to visit her. Throughout her life they had been nearly inseparable and were the best of friends. Excitedly, she began to tell Sadako of an old long standing tradition, that if a person would fold 1,000 paper cranes, the Japanese art of origami, her wish would come true. It was the ray of hope Sadako needed, and it gave her purpose as she set out to accomplish the task, believing with all of her heart she would be healed from the terrible disease that was plaguing her body.

Soon her room began to fill with the colorful birds, and her brother, Masahiro, committed himself to the task of hanging each bird from the ceiling, as if in flight. This pleased Sadako, and she moved even more determined toward her goal, folding the cranes out of the paper her medication came packaged in and anything else she could find. She finally surpassed her goal by folding over 1,300 paper cranes, some with the help of her friends.

Steadily as the days passed, so did her strength. It was a cool, crisp day on October 25th 1955 and Sadako's wish for healing was still unfulfilled. And it was on this day that the deadly disease of leukemia, the atom bomb disease, claimed victory in the eight month battle for her life.

Sadako's Paper Cranes
Above - Paper Cranes Folded By Sadako
At Right - Sadako's Little Kokeshi Dolls
Both On Display At The Peace Memorial



Sadako's Kokeshi Dolls

Today in Hiroshima, there is a children's peace memorial in honor of Sadako, a monument of peace called for by Sadako's fellow students. A place where people can come and pray and remember the children who suffered during that terrible chapter of Japanese history.
The tradition of folding paper cranes is still kept alive as children from all over the world send the colorful paper birds to be placed at the foot of this magnificent monument as a statement and plea for peace.

It was a moving experience for me to be able to visit the Peace Park Memorial and to be able to stand right there at ground zero where over 120,000 people lost their lives on that fateful day in 1945. As we boarded the Shinkansen, the bullet train, and began our five hour trip back to Tokyo, I was lost in deep thought regarding the people of Japan.

In the midst of such terrible devastation, in what we would think of as a reason to be totally hopeless, humanity, with its survivalist nature, continues to look for something to grasp on to, and will generally turn to the natural traditions of their forefathers, no matter how empty or meaningless they may be - attempting to find a ray of hope or a glimmer of light.

As our train began to pick up speed, I looked out my window and watched as the city of Hiroshima faded into the distance. I was reminded by the Lord that we, as believers, have been entrusted with the reality of life, not just an empty tradition, or one of empty works, but a promise based firmly upon the covenant of the shed Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Think of it - we who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord have been given this trust! It has been placed in our hearts as a free gift, and the world is groping about blindly, looking for it - though they know it not. It's the essence of the message Jesus spoke when He said that we are the salt of the earth, implying that we can make a difference in the world around us.

Let us not grow weary in doing good, living the Gospel, and loving people. Let us not ever take lightly our salvation, nor ever be silenced, for we are the bearers of truth. May we ever press in, more and more to the presence of our Lord, learning of Him and being ever mindful of Him. Being sensitive to the sound of His voice, ready and willing to change our plans at a moment's notice so as to move with His plan of hope and peace for a dying world.

As magnificent and moving as it may be, there is a more superior monument of peace than the one that stands at the great Peace Park in Hiroshima. It is the monument of true and everlasting peace that has been given to all of mankind through the shed Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ - it is the monument of the Cross of Calvary, and it stands testifying of His great love and acceptance for all who will come to Him with an open heart!

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.... Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-2, 3 NKJV

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Dan Downey

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Dan Downey 2000

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