In June, after ten months of folding origami paper cranes, students at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, N.Y., completed 2,977 cranes to honor each of the people killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The school had held a peace vigil for all students and faculty in early September 2021. The school’s Teachers and Students for a Quaker Understanding and Education (TASQUE) Committee encouraged reflection on September 11, a federally recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance that happens in the United States on the anniversary of the attacks. 2021 marked 20 years.
The committee acknowledged the importance of the commitment to peace and introduced the story of Sadako Sasaki and her crane-making effort. Sasaki was a young Japanese girl who grew up in the years after World War II. At 12 years old, she began folding cranes to bring her good luck and in hopes that upon completing 1,000 cranes, according to an ancient Japanese legend, she would be granted a wish by the gods. Her wish was to recover from recently diagnosed leukemia, caused by radiation exposure from the 1945 U.S. bombing of Hiroshima when she was two. Sasaki surpassed her goal, and died two months later in October 1955. Her story lives on, and folding paper cranes grew into a symbol of hope for a world at peace.
Sasaki’s efforts inspired the school to create its own Peace Crane Memorial. Jackie Mazur, a history teacher at Friends Academy, approached the TASQUE Committee with an idea to honor the twentieth anniversary of September 11, 2001. Mazur was aware of memorials around the country with 2,977 flags displayed, and wondered about creating something similar at the school, asking, “Would peace cranes be more appropriate for a Quaker school?” Louisa Garry, a faculty advisor to the TASQUE Committee and a member of Westbury (N.Y.) Meeting, agreed the idea was in keeping with Quaker beliefs.
After the peace vigil, the TASQUE Committee launched its effort of folding cranes, attaching them to strings in groups of 100 and creating a display in the library. All year, students made cranes in advisory, in alternative meeting for worship, during math and English classes, and some even took paper home to fold cranes.
Students shared how folding paper cranes requires patience, attentive listening, the ability to work with others, and persistence. Some stated the activity helped them reduce stress and anxiety, creating a sense of inner peace. They also noted how the year-long project reflected the slow, arduous process of achieving peace.
Friends Academy is a pre-K–12 Quaker school of about 750 students on Long Island outside New York City.
Correction: August 10, 2022. A previous version of this news story imprecisely stated that the 2,977 cranes were made to honor each of the “lives lost” in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It has been corrected to say “people killed,” as more than 2,977 lives were lost that day, including the hijackers.