Greenpoint Library Honors Lives Lost to COVID-19 With 1,000 Origami Cranes

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, cranes, Death, Greenpoint Library, Inspiration, Origami, Pandemic

By Emily Drooby

A small piece of paper, step-by-step, is transformed into a symbol of hope: a crane. It’s a task Rebecca Cowley had to do many times.

“In Japanese culture, there’s this tradition, if you fold a thousand paper cranes, you get a wish,” she explains, “and it’s often done to symbolize hope and love and peace.”

They now have 1,000 cranes proudly displayed in their windows and they’re wishing for healing. It’s an idea hatched by Rebecca and the staff at the newly opened Greenpoint Library in Brooklyn. The idea became a COVID-19 remembrance project that honors those who were taken too soon.

“We were just brainstorming ideas to memorialize the past year of collective grief that the culture and the nation has been experiencing,” Rebecca says.

Over 580,000 American lives were lost and 33,000 of those lives originate from just New York City alone. In the nearly 3 miles of Greenpoint, where the library is, 52 were taken by the disease.

Grief – it’s a pain that’s known intimately here at the Brooklyn library.

“We’ve had some co-workers who work at this branch who have lost family members,” Rebecca says.

Now, these cranes are flying in exchange. As Fritzi Bodenheimer of Brooklyn Public Library explains, they provide hope and a place to reflect.

“Even today as I was approaching, I saw people stopping, taking pictures, taking a minute to take it in,” Fritzi says. “I think it’s been very positive and it’s been really positive and its sort of both things. It’s commemorative, but it’s so bright and beautiful. It gives you help.”

The idea took flight and members of the community began making the cranes too.

“Sometimes you’ll get a story from someone giving you the crane,” Rebecca says. “‘Oh, someone close to me has passed.’”

The beautiful additions made by the community is where about a third of the cranes come from. The rest were made by the employees here like Rebecca. Lifetimes of grief became a labor of love and hope for the growing members.