Origami activism in Reno
The Japanese legend: If you fold 1,000 paper cranes and cast a wish into them, you’ll get your wish.

For Nevadans who’ve learned enough about origami in the past few months to fold a few thousand paper cranes, getting a wish granted takes a back seat to simple symbolism. They’re hoping to send a message to Nevada’s representatives in the U.S. Congress.

“We were thinking of something to do to engage people around issues of peace,” says John Hadder of Citizen Alert, an activist group formed to protest the feds’ plans to send high-level radioactive waste to a long-term storage facility in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. “People get a lot out of it, taking the time to fold a few cranes here and there. And it provides a tangible message to our delegation [in Washington, D.C.] that we want to see policies that move toward peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Cranes became associated with nuclear-weapons issues after a young Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, began her own anti-nuke campaign in 1955. Sadako was 2 years old when an atomic bomb obliterated her home in Hiroshima. Sadako was only about a mile and a quarter from the explosion, and she suffered no ill effects from the radiation until she reached adolescence. When she discovered that she, along with many others, had leukemia, the “A-bomb disease,” she began folding paper cranes.

Her wish was to get well.

Sadako is said to have folded 644 cranes before her death. Children from Japan, moved by her efforts, completed the 1,000 cranes. Their wish was that what happened to Sadako would never happen again.

A statue to the girl was erected in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Children from around the world now send cranes to the park, where they are placed in front of the statue.

Citizen Alert, along with members of the Reno Anti-War Coalition, has folded about 1,300 cranes so far. Another 2,500 or so have been completed by other community groups, including a high-school math class at the I Can Do Anything charter school.

The groups began the project on Nagasaki Day in early August. The goal is to have 5,000 cranes by Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. A final crane-folding session will be held 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the conference room of the Citizen Alert office, 1101 Riverside Drive. Call Citizen Alert at 827-4200.

The cranes will be strung on frames, each holding 500 cranes, and presented, in Reno, to the offices of Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Jim Gibbons. Frames of cranes will also be delivered to the elected officials’ offices in Washington, D.C.

“The cranes are an international symbol of peace and nuclear-weapons abolition,” Hadder says. “If none of our delegation knows what the crane means, then it’s time they do.”