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November 2001

Messages of Hope Carried on the Wings of Paper Cranes

After the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, students in schools all over Japan are reaching out to support the children of New York City. This support often comes in the form of origami cranes that the students have worked hard to fold themselves.

In Japan cranes, especially a large number like a thousand, are considered symbols of support and sympathy. They also symbolize mourning for people who have been injured or have died. Some people make origami cranes and give them to friends when they are sick to help them get better. Paper cranes always express the feelings of the person who made them.

In Komaki City, Aichi Prefecture, the kids from Ajioka Elementary School decided that this was something they could do to help out. It all started in Ms. Kato's fifth-grade class, when one of the kids suggested that they make 1,000 paper cranes and send them to New York. With the help of the class president, eleven-year-old Kaori Kondo, the word got around and about 150 of the school's 734 students ended up working on the project. Says Kaori, "When I watched T.V. and saw the buildings collapse I felt so bad for the people there. I thought by sending origami cranes it might help cheer up the families of the victims."

Soon, there were so many cranes that they couldn't fit them in the classroom. It wasn't until the school assembly a few days after they finished that the students first saw all of the cranes together. Amazingly, in a little over a week, the kids had folded and strung together 6,103 paper cranes!

In a similar effort to show their support for New York, kids at Kobe City's Motoyama Daini Elementary School sent letters, pictures, and origami. The news of the attack was especially tough for eleven-year-old Mai Araki because her friends' father is thought to have died in the attack. She drew a Japanese and an American flag with the message: "Let's stand up again."

And in Tokyo's Bancho Elementary School, children folded paper cranes and sent them to their sister school in New York City. The 1,000 paper cranes carried this heartfelt message in Japanese and English: "Hold on to your dreams and don't give up!" That's good advice for anybody facing terrorism, and the kids of New York know they have friends supporting them here in Japan.

Photos: (Top) Kids from Ajioka Elementary School with the cranes they folded (Ajioka Elementary School); (Above) Motoyama Daini Elementary School kids show off their pictures before sending them to New York. (Motoyama Daini Elementary School)