HONOLULU – The Ehime Prefectural Government presented certificates of appreciation during a memorial service Sunday to local students for maintaining a monument dedicated to nine Japanese killed when their fisheries training ship was struck by a submarine off Oahu two years ago.
The certificates were given to students of St. Louis School and Iolani School in Honolulu who have volunteered to clean the monument built at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park.
The monument, a black granite stone cenotaph bearing an epitaph that names the victims and prays for peace and safety at sea, is administered by the Ehime Prefectural Government.
Local students have been caring for the monument since it was built a year ago.
“We would like to offer our gratitude for all the people who have worked to soothe the feelings of the victims’ family members and those rescued in the accident,” Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, 50, father of one of the four students killed in the accident, said at the ceremony.
About 150 people, including relatives of the fatalities, officials from the fisheries school, the Ehime Prefectural Government and the U.S. Pacific Fleet attended the ceremony.
The students at St. Louis School’s Japanese Club have taken care of the monument since the Japan-America Society of Hawaii called for volunteers and Rika Inaba, a Japanese teacher in charge of the club, suggested the idea to the students.
Inaba said she told the students the effort would be a good chance for them to learn the importance of sharing the pain of others.
About 30 students in the club take part in a cleanup operation once a month because they believe preserving the monument and remembering the accident may help prevent similar tragedies, the students said.
The Iolani School students said they got involved out of hopes that their effort will help the victims’ families kin recover from the tragedy.
Kazumitsu Joko, principal of Uwajima Fisheries High School, told reporters in Hawaii, “Our sorrow over the incident will never fade away, but I hope the feelings of the victims’ families are soothed by the ceremony held by the people of Hawaii.”
Remembering the accident and preventing similar tragedies is the duty of the people left behind, he said.
The 499-ton Ehime Maru sank Feb. 9, 2001, after being struck from below by the 6,080-ton USS Greeneville off Hawaii as the nuclear-powered sub performed a rapid-surfacing drill for civilian guests.
Nine Japanese, including four teenage students, aboard the ship from the high school, run by the Ehime Prefectural Government, were killed in the accident. Twenty-six others aboard the Ehime Maru were rescued.
The remains of eight of the nine Japanese — four 17-year-old high school boys, two of their teachers and three crew members — were retrieved in a 20-day search of the sunken ship that ended last November. The body of Takeshi Mizuguchi, one of the students, was never found.
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