by Moeko Crider, Teaching Artist at Ojeda Middle School
On November 29, 2011, Luis Lopez Flores, an Ojeda Middle School student, was tragically killed while walking home from school. My students were devastated by something so heartbreaking, so scary, so unexpected.
When I arrived at Ojeda two days after his passing, there was no question that the students needed a break from their film club projects. They needed a safe space to grieve, and I felt that doing something creative and constructive could be healing and a way for them to process this loss. So I collaborated with Miss Jennie Gray, who leads the Theatre Action Project (TAP) Art Club at Ojeda, in the construction of 1000 paper cranes in memory of Luis.
In my mother’s country of Japan, it is said that to create and give away 1000 paper cranes brings healing to the receiver. Cranes are a symbol of peace, of goodwill, and of hope. It is also a healing activity for the person folding the cranes. My students were in all different stages of grief. Some students were really close to him, others only knew him peripherally. But all wanted to participate in making something that would honor Luis and bring healing to themselves, to Luis’ family, and to their school.
We spent hours and hours writing messages to Luis on paper and then folding them into cranes. As time passed, many students and teachers at Ojeda, who also wanted to send their good thoughts, folded paper cranes to contribute to the project. We also received cranes from people in the greater community – other TAP teachers, Del Valle Middle School students, people who had never met Luis but wanted to honor him and his family.
We finished making all 1000 cranes in May. We hung them from a tree that was planted outside of Ojeda Middle School in his memory, and hope to give them to his family.
Here is a link to a short film we made about this project and our memories of Luis.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout the various stages of this project. Special thanks to Dawn Sand for her ongoing support and for her donation of the beautiful oak tree from which we hung the cranes, to Stephanie and Kevin Noell for donating cranes, to Cassie Swayze for all her help in getting origami paper, and to Principal David Williams for his ongoing support of our program and our projects.