"Peace on Your Wings" gives students lesson on human cost of nuclear war

In a theater at San Francisco's Fort Mason, students from Northern California and Hawaii turned back time Friday. They performed a musical about a child victim of nuclear war during the World War II bombing of Hiroshima, that has gained new resonance in the current times of nuclear bomb threats by politicians in the news.

The musical "Peace on Your Wings" shows nuclear war through the eyes of children who lived through it.

It is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a 12-year-old girl who struggled with leukemia after being exposed to the radiation from the Hiroshima atom bomb.

"A lot of people don't know the actual effects of the atomic bomb. They know what happened, they know the date of when it happened but they don't know the effect of it upon people, on human beings," said Grace Matayoshi, 16, a Sacramento student who plays the part of Sadako's friend in a hospital of children hoping to survive.

The horror of a nuclear bomb threat then, now relevant 72 years later for many of these young people.

"To have something like that in the present day today like still as a formidable threat is very scary," said Matayoshi.

"Musical theater is about storytelling and  this is a story that needs to be told," said Jennifer Apy, a parent whose son Chris is one of the cast members.

That story, the human toll of nuclear war, is being lost as survivors of the world's only bombings slowly age.

Laurie Rubin of Ohana Arts and Jenny Taira are the creators of "Peace on Your Wings". They hope this play will connect survivors with the younger generations.

Sadako's older brother Masahiro Sasaki attended one of the performances in Honolulu.

In San Francisco at one rehearsal, survivor Jack Dairiki shared his story as a child in Hiroshima.

"That was a very, very moving experience to hear what his story was like," said Matayoshi, "He remembers it so well and he told us in so much detail and it was quite horrifying to hear about those stories but it's very important to know what it was like then."

The musical touches on a part of Sadako's legacy. She folded one thousand paper origami cranes to have a wish come true. Now those cranes have become a symbol and a call for peace. Students around the world send cranes to her memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Park.

At the Fort Mason performance in San Francisco, fifty students from Oakland's Hillcrest Elementary School brought strings of origami cranes they had folded.

"It was just kind of sad, sad that people died, said Kate Mikami, a 4th grader.

"We will be sending them to the Peace memorial in Hiroshima," said Nikki Wellman, a Hillcrest Elementary School teacher who says the story fits into their curriculum and school theme of empathy and peace.

The play provides students with a chance to see themselves in history, and like Sadako find some hope for a more peaceful future.

"Sadako and so many more who lost their lives to someone else's war," the students sang in the closing song, "Peace in the world."

The musical "Peace on Your Wings has been performed in Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York.

In the Bay Area, there will be two performances in San Francisco at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason on October 1st
The show will move to San Jose at the Hammer Theater for a performance on October 6th and two shows on October 7th.

For information and tickets: http://www.peaceonyourwings.com/