O'Fallon Teens Create Paper Cranes of Hope for Aurora, Colorado Victims
A Fort Zumwalt West sophomore gathered a group of friends and created paper cranes to bring peace to the victims of last Friday's shooting at the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Fort Zumwalt West sophomore Nate Williams loves going to the movie theater.
Like many avid movie-goers, Nate and his friends went to a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Night Rises," on the opening day last week.
When Nate left the movie, he was scrolling through his phone when he saw the news, that a man wearing a gas mask entered an Aurora, Colorado theater, hurled a gas canister and began shooting.
“I always go to the movie theater. It’s like a second home and it hit me really hard because the movies are like an escape,” he said.
Nate continued following the story the next day, and when he heard 58 people were injured and 12 were killed, he said he felt compelled to do something for the victims and their families.
“All day, I was thinking and praying about it and I wanted to do something,” he said. “I never felt an urge like that.”
Nate’s mom Cyndi said her son, who is normally the most upbeat, cheerful kid she knows, seemed down all day on Friday. She knew he wanted to reach out and bring comfort to the victims of the tragedy.
“I said, whatever you want to do, I’ll support you,” she said. “I think it hit him, that he was just there with his friends and it could have been them.”
On a recent trip to Oklahoma City, Nate saw a display of paper cranes made by elementary school students for the victims of the bombing in 1995.
According to a Japanese saying, a person who makes a 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish, he said.
Nate decided to get a group together to make the cranes and send them to the Colorado victims.
His wish: Peace and comfort for the people of Aurora.
Nate said he learned how to fold a paper crane on YouTube, then got a group of friends together to begin folding.
He chose plain white paper because it seemed most peaceful and decided to put his own spin on the cranes by writing encouraging scriptures from the Bible on each one.
The group started small with friends from school and Summit Community Church. They worked together to make cranes until 2 a.m.
As word spread about Nate’s project, the group grew larger and began meeting at the O’Fallon Starbucks on Highway K and Laura Hill.
“A larger crowd came each day,” Nate said. “It’s been great the turn-out we’ve gotten. I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone.”
For three days, a group of nearly 70 volunteers worked to make 1,000 cranes.
Cyndi said what started out as Nate’s idea, became a community project.
As they sat at Starbucks for two days, more people showed their support, Cyndi added. Starbucks employees helped fold. Two teenage girls dropped off cookies for the volunteers. A woman who was sitting in the corner reading her Bible came over to help the group with the cranes. Another woman, whose stepson recently passed away, came to help because she said if he was still here, he would have wanted to be involved.
“Just seeing them all come out—kids from school and church, all sitting next to each other, writing Bible verses on cranes—that was moving to me,” Cyndi said. “To see the healing in this Starbucks.”
Nate said he plans to send the cranes to the the Aurora movie theater for them to display or send to the victims.
“Whatever will bring them the most peace and comfort,” he said.
Kernz Group, a delivery service located in Earth City, volunteered to take the cranes to Aurora for free this week.
Cyndi said she received a grateful message from a representative at Aurora City Hall on Wednesday.
“They were sifting through tons of emails, they saw the one from us about Nate's crane project and she called to say it stood out and ‘touched her heart’ that he had done this,” she said. “His goal was to bring comfort to the people of Aurora and already, his wish is coming true!”
Nate said he hopes the cranes will let the victims of the shooting know there are people who care.
“We’re mourning with them and they are not alone in this,” he said. “It is so impactful, and we’re all here for them.”