Christine Dzida dedicated part of her summer vacation to the memory of youngsters her age who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 50 years ago.
In summer Bible school classes at Huntington Beach's Saints Simon & Jude Catholic Church, the 12-year-old Costa Mesa youngster and 150 classmates practiced the Japanese art of origami, folding hundreds of pieces of paper into likenesses of the crane, a bird regarded in Japan as a symbol of health and prosperity.
Six of the youngsters presented 1,000 cranes at two Masses on Sunday to commemorate the nuclear bombings of the two Japanese cities in 1945. The brightly colored birds, strung on nylon line, will be sent to the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan as a gesture of goodwill.
There were "so many innocent people who were killed, and we should remember them," Christine said.
The project was started this spring by the church's school and parish members as a lesson about the violence and destruction of war. It was inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, who died at 12 of leukemia after being exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima blast.
As she was dying, Sadako heard a legend that if a person makes 1,000 paper cranes, his or her wish will be granted. Her wish was to get well. She folded 644 cranes before she died, and her classmates made the rest after her death.
Because of Sadako's story, said Patricia McCabe, a coordinator for the project, the origami crane has become a symbol of peace. The making of the cranes "was strictly to remember the atomic bomb, and we were trying to be sensitive to the variety of opinions around this issue," she said.
Maria Dzida, Christine's mother, said that, despite controversy about the use of the atomic bomb, the peace cranes are a "very gentle and non-controversial way to commemorate the 50th anniversary by allowing the children of our church to offer the prayer for peace in memory of Sadako and the others who died."
A thousand cranes made earlier this year were sent to officials of Huntington Beach's Japanese city sister, Anjo, where they were displayed in the City Hall. The cranes then were taken to Sadako's memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Park.
The idea for the peace cranes came from church member Monika Galluccio, a native of Austria who has long been involved in the peace movement there.
The paper cranes, she said, "are a symbol that no child should die because of radiation or because of war-inflicted causes. It's a wish that goes with the cranes--that kids grow up healthy and don't have to suffer like Sadako," she said.
"It's important to remember the history," she said, "and to not have it repeated."