June 01, 2002
By OLIVIA L. LAWRENCE, The Bristol Press
BRISTOL -- A family friendship has taken flight with the help of 1,000 paper cranes made by a young teen as a symbol of good luck for an ailing older relative.
"I never thought she'd make 1,000," said Diane Masotti about Meghan Hahn, 12, who brought the final 200 origami birds to Masotti's husband, Michael, who has multiple sclerosis, on Thursday.
"They are supposed to bring good luck," said Meghan, a student at Chippens Hill Middle School. She has been making batches of 200 cranes at a time, in all colors and sizes, for about eight months.
As each installment was finished, she brought them to Michael, and this week she was able to make the final delivery.
According to a Japanese legend she learned in school, after she makes each one of the 1,000 cranes fly, she can make a wish and it will come true, Meghan said.
Meghan's teacher, Dawn Killiany, introduced her class to the story of "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes," and the middle school student took it to heart, said Sue Hahn, Meghan's mother. Sue Hahn is Michael's cousin and Meghan is his second cousin.
Diane explained that while the two branches of the family had a passing relationship, they had never really gotten to know each or spent any time together. The Masottis had often invited the Hahns to visit, but with busy lives, "it took awhile," she said.
Then the families happened to get together right about the time Meghan was learning the story of Sadako, a girl who became ill after the World War II Hiroshima bombing. She began making cranes in hopes of getting better. The girl died before she finished her 1,000 cranes, but around the world children have adopted the legend and used the paper birds to symbolize a desire for peace and good luck.
"I really wanted to do something," Meghan said, after she visited with her second cousin last year.
"She formed an attachment to my husband," Diane said.
Her husband, who is 49, became ill when he was 24. About nine years ago, Michael's condition dramatically deteriorated and he is now confined to a hospital bed at his home and is not able to speak.
"There is so little physically he can do. [But] all due to Meghan, he sparks right up," Diane said, adding that even doctors have observed an improvement in his well-being since he struck up a friendship with the girl.
Diane said Michael can give the "thumbs-up" or down sign and will positively react to Meghan's visits.
After Meghan made 600 birds, Diane began stringing them around her husband's bed and they have become a conversation topic with visitors. "They're always with him. I'll never take them down," Diane said.
"With all that goes on in today's world, a child like this should be commended. She's a lovable, thoughtful child. I haven't been close to her, but since this started ..this child is unbelievable."
Meghan did not reveal what her wish was when the last crane flew.
But for Diane it is obvious that for Michael, the cranes have brought good luck.
"You have to bring a smile to his face every day," Diane said. "You
say 'Meghan' to him and a big smile comes across his face. He just beams."
©The Bristol Press 2002