One Thousand Cranes for Newtown: Maki Guelcher of Ventura
By Grier King 03/21/2013
According to the Twitter blog, it takes less than a week for more than a billion tweets to be sent out into the netherworld abyss of the Internet.
The world we live in is fast-paced, with short attention spans and a certain quick, linear numbness.
Perhaps one of the premier examples of this numbness is the reaction time surrounding tragedies. Consider Newtown; 26 people were murdered, tweets were sent, cards were signed, and candlelight vigils were held. Now, months later, things are slowing down, the murmur is quieting, the memory is slowly retreating.
Then there is Maki Guelcher.
As soon as the tragedy occurred, Guelcher of Ventura and a student at Cal State University, Channel Islands, set forth on her mission of creating 1,000 origami cranes for the people of Newtown, each crane folded with great intention and a wish inside.
“I want to gather 1,000 people’s cranes rather than 1,000 people’s names as signatures or online petitions. The end product of 1,000 cranes would be so powerful and beautiful with people’s heart in them. It’s [a] different value than [a] box of toys,” Guelcher said. “My project takes a lot longer and I think that is good as it makes it difficult for people to forget what happened.”
Thus far, Guelcher has collected nearly 500 cranes from approximately sixty people. She hopes for the project to be completed before this upcoming December so that the cranes may be present in Newtown for the one-year remembrance ceremony.
What makes Guelcher’s perspective on this tragedy — this symbol for one of the greatest debates of American society at this moment in time — so unique and valuable, is that she did not grow up here in the U.S.
As a child growing up in Japan, Guelcher was surrounded by a strong community in which children were safe to walk alone, and where parents adopted the joint duty of securing this safety.
In school, Guelcher and her classmates were taught about the horrors of war and the cost of violence.
“We learned as little children the brutal things that happened in 1945 and the people who still suffered afterward. The information that we learned at that time was so powerful, many of us felt strong disagreement with war and creating another atomic bomb. We had to question all the time, ‘Why do we fight?’”
Although folding paper cranes may not feel like an effective or powerful statement, it is the thoughts behind the act that give it its strength.
“I don’t look at it as a direct response to violence…. This 1,000-cranes project is all about thinking about someone other than yourself,” Guelcher said. “We can change things if we really want there to be change. The cranes are one form of our voices. Each crane has an individual wish and hope to support victims in Newtown by one’s writing. I want people to realize the Newtown tragedy did not happen somewhere else far from us.”
Of course, the issue at the center of this project is a grand and sensitive one. Guelcher believes in a basic truth that, no matter one’s stance on the issue of gun violence, the safety of our children is the highest priority.
“Our responsibility is to get rid of fear, not create more fear…. I think we need to find reasonable places where we agree, starting with the idea that all children should be safe from senseless acts like this. I believe we can stop guns from killing children and I owe it to my daughter to try,” Guelcher said.
“You don’t necessarily have to agree with me about what we should do about guns, but if you agree that something needs to be done, please write your wish on a crane and we will reach our goal. It will help the 26 people who died in Newtown to not be forgotten. It is the best thing I can think of doing.”
Learn more about the project on the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OneThousandCranesForNewtown, and send your cranes to: P.O. Box 15, 675 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, CA 93001.