The 9/11 Memorial Museum collection will be home to 1,000 origami cranes that were hand-folded by Japanese school children and sent to Nino’s Restaurant in lower Manhattan, which served hundreds of thousands of free meals to firefighters, police officers, Red Cross workers, and others at the World Trade Center site following the attacks of 9/11.
In Japanese popular culture, the “Thousand Origami Cranes” — Senbazuru or Zenbazuru — has come to reference world peace through the poignant story of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who contracted leukemia as a result of radiation from the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Based on ancient Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted a wish by the crane honored in origami form. Wishing good health, Sadako began to fold the cranes after her diagnosis, but only made 644 before she died. Her classmates folded the remaining cranes, which were then buried with her. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane in outstretched hands was erected in Hiroshima Peace Park, with the inscription, “This is our cry, this is our prayer; peace in the world.”
In a letter to Nino Vendrome of Nino’s restaurant, the Japanese class wrote, “We folded our cranes with the same wish in mind, and thought it fitting to place the cranes in New York.”
The chains of colorful paper cranes were a familiar sight in the weeks and months after 9/11, decorating relief centers like Nino’s Restaurant, firehouses, neighborhood schools, and the border areas around lower Manhattan's “frozen zone.”
By Margaret Barng, 9/11 Memorial Deputy Communications Manager