21 years after school stabbings, students pledge to cherish life

IKEDA, Osaka Prefecture – Children at an elementary school here vowed on June 8 to continue to cherish the preciousness of people’s lives on the 21st anniversary of a series of gun attacks which killed eight students and injured 15 others, including teachers.

At a memorial service held to mark 21 years since the attack, three sixth-graders made the wish on behalf of all children at Ikeda Primary School, which is affiliated with the University of Osaka Kyoiku.

“We will wish many people happiness and continue to cherish the preciousness of people’s lives,” the three children said. “We will create a society where we can feel safe.”

During the ceremony, bereaved families, along with school children and teachers, offered silent prayers in front of a monument dedicated to the victims as the cenotaph bells rang shortly after 10 a.m., when the rampage at the knife happened.

On June 8, 2001, Mamoru Takuma, then 37, stormed the school and stabbed and slashed children with two kitchen knives.

Seven second grade girls and one first grade boy were killed in the attack. Thirteen other children and two teachers were injured, some seriously.

Takuma was found guilty of the murders and was executed in September 2004.

In his address to the memorial service, Takumi Sanada, the school’s principal, spoke about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the shooting at a Texas elementary school in late May.

“Tragedies have occurred overseas as schools, which are meant to be a place of study, are targeted for invasion by a country and many people have been killed in a shooting at a primary school “, said Sanada. “We cannot keep schools safe if we feel helpless and turn a blind eye to this reality.”

The school has about 600 students who attend the annual ceremony almost every year.

No guests or parents of students were invited to last year’s memorial service as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, but they were permitted to attend this year’s event.

Attendees included parents of first-graders, who attended the memorial service for the first time.

Sixth-graders and all participants performed songs in person this year dedicated to the victims, as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. At last year’s ceremony, the school played pre-recorded songs sung by students.

(This article was written by Kazuhide Setoguchi and Toshiharu Morishima.)

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