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Truman Library to Accept Donation from Hiroshima Victim’s Family

The family of a Hiroshima victim makes a special donation to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

Sadako Sasaki was living in Hiroshima when the first atomic bomb was dropped. Although she survived the bombing, she died at the age of 12 from radiation-induced leukemia—but not before she folded more than 1,000 paper cranes.

According to a Japanese tradition, if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you are granted health and a long life. Although Sadako died in 1955, her cranes continue to serve as a symbol of peace and reconciliation, and now one is coming to the metro.

Sadako Sasaki in a photo taken by her brother, Masahiro

Sadako’s brother, Masahiro Sasaki, and his son, Yuji, are donating one of her cranes to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum Thursday, Nov. 19. The 6 p.m. ceremony will feature an original song from Yuji and remarks from Masahiro and President Truman’s grandson, Honorary Chair of the Truman Library’s Board of Directors Clifton Truman Daniel, who asked for the donation.

“My grandfather never talked to me about the bombs,” Daniel says. “He died when I was 15. I didn’t ask any questions—I was a school kid on holiday when I saw him, so I was not really interested in any more history.”

Daniel first learned of Sadako in 1999 when his son, Wesley, brought home a children’s book about her, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”

“It was the first human story I had ever seen out of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and I remember telling Wesley that I thought it was important for him to know both sides, both his great-grandfather’s decision and what that decision cost the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Daniel says.

In interviews, he mentioned reading Sadako’s story, and in 2004, Daniel got a call from Masahiro. The two hoped to meet one day, and it happened years later at the 9/11 Tribute Center. Daniel recalls Yuji taking out a tiny plastic box, and from that, a paper crane, the last Sadako folded.

Masahiro Sasaki and his son, Yuji, with Clifton Truman Daniel

The family asked him to visit Japan for the memorial ceremonies held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Daniel agreed, bringing his wife and two sons in August 2012. Between the ceremonies, he listened to stories from more than two dozen atomic bomb survivors.

“None of them ever came to me in anger or recrimination or ‘you owe us an apology or your country does,’” Daniel says. “They only wanted to tell their stories.”

He’s doing just that in a book he recently finished writing that includes their stories as well as his own experiences meeting with survivors and visiting Japan. He also penned a children’s fiction book inspired by the stories he heard, which Wesley illustrated.

Daniel has been working to make connections between Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Truman Library and Museum, including bringing seedlings from trees that survived the bombings to KC, where they’re currently maturing at Powell Gardens before someday being transplanted to the library grounds. Daniel has also kept in touch with Masahiro over the years, often regarding events like the Truman Library donation, which Daniel requested a year and a half ago. Masahiro instantly agreed.

The crane will eventually be placed at the end of the library’s atomic bomb exhibit, where visitors can learn about the atomic bomb creation and the reasons for using it, then see what that decision cost the Japanese.

“The crane is a symbol; it’s a gesture,” Daniel says. “It’s a gesture of peace and reconciliation and also a wish from Masahiro that we don’t ever use nuclear weapons again. Every survivor has that same wish, that same hope.” –Kelsey Cipolla