POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 10, 2011
Ten years after the Japanese ship Ehime Maru was sunk off Diamond Head in a collision with a U.S. submarine, families who lost loved ones made the annual trek to Honolulu to remember yesterday those who perished, share each other's company, and thank the people of Hawaii for the warmth and friendship they have shown over the years.
"Feel like Hawaii people are family," said Miyako Sakashima, who lost her 17-year-old son, Toshiya.
Her son liked to joke around and drive trucks and wanted to be an electronics mechanic, she said through Hawaii resident Hiju Ashikaga.
"I'm OK," said Sakashima, who was wearing black like most of the family members.
But she said "no" when asked about former U.S. Navy Cmdr. Scott Waddle, who was in charge of the USS Greeneville when it surfaced under the Uwajima Fisheries High School training vessel on Feb. 9, 2001, sinking the 190-foot ship in five minutes.
Nine men and boys from the Ehime Maru died.
"They don't want to talk about it (the sinking)," Ashikaga said.
More than 300 people -- more than three times the usual turnout -- attended the 10th anniversary commemoration at Kakaako Waterfront Park, where there is a memorial with a 1-ton anchor from the ship atop a granite base. Families of seven of the nine Ehime Maru crew members who were killed were present.
Waddle, found guilty at nonjudicial proceedings of dereliction of duty and negligent hazarding of a vessel, took responsibility and apologized repeatedly to the families after the collision. He said by phone last week from his home in Cary, N.C., that he asked in 2002 and 2003 if he could attend the memorial ceremonies and was told, "No, we don't want you here."
"So, being respectful and mindful that if there is an event and there is a ceremony for the family members to participate in, that's an opportunity for them to mourn and one for me to perhaps not be a distraction," said Waddle, now 51.
Students Takeshi Mizuguchi, Yusuke Terata, Toshiya Sakashima and Katsuya Nomoto, all 17, died in the sinking along with fisheries school instructors Hiroshi Makizawa, 37, and Jun Nakata, 33, and crewmen Hiroshi Nishida, 49, Toshimichi Furuya, 47, and Hirotaka Segawa, 60.
At 1:43 p.m. -- the time of the collision -- participants observed a moment of silence. The name of each of the nine victims was read aloud as a bell tolled.
Japanese consular officials, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and former Gov. George Ariyoshi were in attendance, along with Ehime prefecture Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura, Uwajima city Mayor Hirohisa Ishibashi and Uwajima Fisheries High School Principal Kanji Nogami.
Abercrombie was among those who placed a floral wreath on the memorial. He placed his hands together in prayer, and then turned and bowed to the Japanese families. Rear Adm. Katherine Gregory, head of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific, also placed a wreath and was among about a dozen U.S. Navy members at the event.
Ishibashi, the Uwajima city mayor, expressed his "deepest appreciation" to the Ehime Maru Memorial Association for its efforts.
Ten years ago, the sinking of the Ehime Maru "shocked all of us immeasurably," Ishibashi said. "Citizens of Uwajima city and the whole nation of Japan experienced great anger and sadness."
Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, whose son, Takeshi, was the only person not to be recovered, told the audience that "even though I cannot easily describe how the last 10 years have been to us, I come here to the Kakaako Waterfront Park and seeing this magnificent ocean makes my heart calm."
Goodwill has been fostered between Hawaii and Ehime Prefecture through the Ehime Maru Memorial Association in Honolulu and efforts including memorial cleaning every third Saturday by the St. Louis School Japanese club, the Ehime-Hawaii baseball youth exchange, sister schools and an annual summer internship for University of Hawaii students at the Ehime Prefecture International Center.
"Those kinds of things bind people together, so I think there's healing going on, continued healing ... ," said Ed Hawkins, president of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii and the memorial association.