OSAKA — About 200 schoolchildren from an Osaka elementary school where eight pupils were stabbed to death June 8 were reunited with their classmates Tuesday for the first time in 18 days.
The 200, who account for 90 percent of the school’s first- and second-grade pupils, made origami and played ball games at a nearby gym for about two hours as part of a rehabilitation program aimed at resuming classes in late August.
The games took place at Satsukiyama Gym in Ikeda, about 1 km from Osaka Kyoiku University Ikeda Elementary School, where the 10-minute stabbing spree took place. The windows were blocked off by curtains.
Under a guidance program called “free space,” Ikeda teachers, aided by collegiate volunteers, hope to give the children a way to come together and cope with the massacre, which was witnessed by many of the students and left 15 others injured.
The suspect, Mamoru Takuma, 37, allegedly killed the eight first- and second-graders and was arrested after teachers subdued him.
The kids arrived at the gym shortly after 9:30 a.m., most holding the hands of their mothers.
Some greeted the more than 10 police officers on hand to guard the site; others went to embrace each other.
The siren of an emergency vehicle prompted looks of fear as it passed by, but had been forgotten by the end of the day.
“I am glad to see my teacher,” a first-grade girl said after drawing and playing volleyball. “I was looking forward to eating lunch with everyone.”
The fifth- and sixth-grade students, who began the free space program the previous day, swam in the indoor swimming pool at the gym on Tuesday.
At about midday, the children left the gym after saying goodbye to the principal.
Members of a task force set up by the university said they were relieved that more children showed up for the program than expected.
The program is scheduled to run until July 6.
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