Three hundred fifty people attend memorial service for victims of Tsushima-Maru tragedy
August 23, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo
The 2011 memorial service for the victims of the sinking of the Tsushima-Maru, a tragedy in 1944 in which the submarine USS Bowfin sank an unmarked Japanese passenger-cargo ship carrying hundreds of schoolchildren, was held at the Kozakura-no-To monument in Wakasa, Naha City on August 22. The memorial service was organized by the Tsushima-Maru Memorial Foundation.
About 350 survivors and bereaved family members attended the service, in which they prayed for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
Actress Mayu Saegusa, who created and wrote Nuchi du Takara (Life itself is our treasure), a play based on the tragedy, and 13 elementary-school children of Naha City, appeared on stage to sing two songs, including Furusato (My Hometown). Then those in attendance let loose rice paper butterflies into the skies as they prayed for the victims and for peace. There was also a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of the Tsushima-Maru tragedy and of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In a determined tone, Masakatsu Takara, president of the Tsushima-Maru Memorial Foundation said, “The staff of the Tsushima-Maru Memorial Museum will make every effort not to let the fire of peace go out and to make better lives for children.”
Eighty year-old Tsuneko Maria Miyagi Bartruff, one of the survivors of the tragedy, who has attended the memorial service each year from California, lost her grandmother, her younger brother and a cousin in the tragedy when she was just 14 years old.
When the ship went down she was hurled out into the sea, where she was attacked by sharks. She survived a four-day ordeal in the water, her left thigh bitten by sharks as she struggled to swim away.
Miyagi said, “Many years have passed, but I will never forget the tragedy. I still have nightmares in which I see sharks coming to bite me.”
She continued, “I was the only one of my family to survive, so I feel so sorry for my family members who were killed, but I would like to live on for their sake.”
(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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