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“I think that’s enough for tonight, Nobuo.” The young boy’s father had stood in the doorway for thirty minutes, moved by his son’s unwavering focus and diligence. He knew he would have continued through the night if he was allowed.

“Just one more, daddy,” he responded, his tone respectful but determined. Nobuo turned his head to give an almost pleading look; his father simply nodded. 

“Lights out in five minutes.” The lump of pride in Yoichi’s throat was barely discernible in his voice, and he knew he couldn’t watch any longer.  He took himself to the next room and sat on the edge of the bed, listening to the still of the house. On his nightstand was a paper crane—one of the dozens Nobuo had folded in the last week.

When he picked it up, tears started to roll down Yoichi’s face, the first he has shed in months. They were tears for his friends, for his neighbours. They were tears for his son, whose young heart was so full of compassion for his shattered community, and the lives still devastated a year on. 

The memory of that disastrous day woke Yoichi most nights, the terrible noise reverberating in his ears. He would rush to Nobuo’s room, and he would kneel by his bed and pray, offering up his unending gratitude, until his heart stopped racing. 

True to his word, Nobuo had only completed one more crane and was lying in bed when Yoichi returned, still holding a crane in his hand. The boy looked up at his weary father and asked, “Can I make more tomorrow, please?”

The resolve in his voice glistened in his eyes, too. Yoichi leaned down to kiss his son’s forehead. “I’ll help,” he whispered, “Goodnight, Nobuo.”

On the morning of the anniversary, parents were invited to the school assembly. Mostly mothers had attended, but Yoichi sat quietly at the back of the packed auditorium, his lower lip trembling throughout the contributions made by each class. It was an impressive and very fitting tribute. 

Nobuo’s class was the last to present. Their teacher stood to reveal one thousand origami peace cranes strung together and attached to a board that would be displayed in the community centre. 

“One student in particular,” she said, “Made an extraordinary effort and folded more than one hundred cranes.”

‘One hundred and thirteen,’ Yoichi thought to himself, ‘What an achievement.’

“And that student would like to say a few words—Nobuo Morinaka.”

Yoichi was stunned—Nobuo hadn’t mentioned he would be speaking. He stood up to watch his son stride across the stage to the microphone, holding a sheet of paper. 

“My name is Nobuo Morinaka. One year ago today, my daddy saved me from the earthquake. He got really hurt when he was protecting me and now he only has one arm.  He’s still the best dad ever. He helped me make so many cranes, even though it was really hard for him. These cranes are for him and everyone else who got hurt last year.”

He walked off, oblivious to the roar of applause, or his sobbing, one-armed father in the back row.

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