Isle pupils helpA small group of St. Louis School students hopes to forge a bond with Japanese students who a year ago today lost classmates in a tragic maritime accident -- one of the worst military-civilian peacetime accidents in recent history.
A delegation from St. Louis
School wants to show that it cares
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Corey Takehara, president of the St. Louis Japanese Club, said, "This may not be the best way, but it is a way to show that people of Hawaii and its high school community actually care."
Takehara, a junior at St. Louis, will be part of a delegation from the private Catholic high school that will help in today's unveiling of a memorial at Kakaako Waterfront State Park.
The Ehime prefectural government paid for the memorial to remember the nine men and boys -- the majority of them members of Uwajima Fisheries High School -- who died Feb. 9, 2001, after the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville collided with the school's training ship Ehime Maru.
Takehara and several of his classmates will lay a single white carnation at the black granite memorial to close this morning's ceremony marking the first anniversary of the accident. They will be joined by several students from Uwajima Fisheries High School who survived the fatal collision.
Among the dignitaries from Japan who will participate in the 10 a.m. ceremony will be Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shigeo Uetake.
Representing the Navy will be Rear Adm. Robert Willard, Pacific Fleet's deputy commander. Also attending will be Gov. Ben Cayetano and Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato.
Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, 49, will represent the families who lost relatives in the collision. Among the nine victims, only the remains of Mizuguchi's son, Takeshi, were not recovered. Following the ceremony, Cayetano will host a reception at Washington Place for the survivors, the victims' families and other members of the Japanese delegation.
The 12-foot-by-12-foot monument was designed by Kyosuke Tamai, 59, a graduate of Uwajima High School.
A young stonemasons group in Okazaki in Aichi prefecture built the $65,000 monument. The names of the nine victims and a prayer for peace and safety at sea are engraved on it. An anchor of the Ehime Maru raised from the sea by the Navy is part of the monument.
The 190-foot Ehime Maru sank within minutes after the Greeneville plowed into its hull while demonstrating an emergency "blow," or surfacing maneuver, for 16 civilians.
Rika Inaba, the club's adviser, said 30 students in her St. Louis organization decided to volunteer to spend one day a month maintaining the monument because "the students wanted to give something back to the community. It's something they learned.
"Since four Uwajima high school students passed away (in the accident)," Inaba said, "they feel very close to what happened. They want to understand the pain of losing classmates.
"By committing to this memorial, it will always remind the students to value lives and live every day to the fullest."
Matthew King, a junior and the club's vice president, said he is willing to give up a day a month since "it's a way to give back to the community. ... Once a month is not that hard, really."
Inaba hopes to get other Japanese clubs at different island high schools involved in the maintenance effort.
At the conclusion of today's unveiling, Inaba's students will present to the Uwajima students a 30-foot-long lei containing kukui nuts, seashells, colored beads and colored paper flowers signed with personal messages in English and Japanese from the students, parents and faculty members at St. Louis.
St. Louis Principal Burton Tomita also plans to give the Uwajima delegation a koa bowl to seal the commitment between the two schools.