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9/11 brought heartbreak to Japan as well

21 Comments
By Patrick Parr

Perhaps Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, said it best back in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the attacks: “[The September 11 attacks] cut us all to the core, for they were an attack on humanity itself.” Besides the United States, 91 other countries lost citizens that day, Japan being one of them. Over the last 20 years, many non-profit organizations, newspaper journalists as well as friends and family have collected the details of some of the 24 Japanese citizens who were killed that day.

One heartbreaking story is that of 20-year-old Toshiya Kuge.

Kuge had finished his first year at Waseda University, and decided to take a two-week vacation, visiting Canada and the United States. Traveling alone so he’d be challenged to improve his English, he’d packed his schedule, managing to go whitewater rafting in the Rocky Mountains, then visiting Niagara Falls. After taking in the Statue of Liberty, Kuge’s trip had been a success. He headed to the Newark airport and boarded United flight 93, scheduled to land in San Francisco.

AP21252773104897-1.jpg
Chalk artist Erica LuBer, left, helps move a chalk portrait of Toshiya Kuge, from Osaka, who was one of the 40 passengers and crew who perished of Flight 93 at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Image: AP/Gene J Puskar

One of 40 passengers and crew (the plane had a capacity to seat 200), Kuge was on board when four terrorists stormed the cockpit and hijacked the plane. The terrorists had hoped to slam the plane into the U.S. Capitol building, but they were thwarted by the passengers and pilots. United 93 pilot Jason Dahl had learned via a text message at 9:24 a.m. that other planes had been hijacked earlier in the morning. In the end, United 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. Kuge was 20 years old, the youngest man on the plane.

Three Japanese bank institutions suffered tragedy on Sept 11, 2001. The first was the Nishi-Nippon Bank, then located on floor 102 of the World Trade Center’s north tower. Two men, Kazuhiro Anai, 42, and Takuya Nakamura, 30, were in the office that day when American Airlines Flight 11 flew into floors 93 to 99 of the tower.

The Mizuho Financial Group (then under the name Fuji Bank) had offices on floors 79 to 82 of the south tower when United Airlines 175 crashed into floors 75 to 85. Nineteen Japanese employees were killed. Mitsui Trust Financial Group also lost three employees.

Many of the victims' families grieved privately. One father, however, chose to share the sorrow he felt over the loss of his son. Kazusada Sumiyama had lost his 34-year-old son Yoichi Sugiyama, a Fuji Bank employee, and as a way to process his grief he wrote 68 poems and self-published them in English and Japanese, paying $13,000 to self-publish 1,500 copies to give to the families of other victims. Near the beginning of his book, “The Songs of Ground Zero,” he wrote: “My son was lost / Forever at the Twin Towers / Although fervent has been / My wish for a serene world, / Without war and without weapons.”

Sumiyama and his wife Mari had visited Yoichi in July 2001, seeing the sights of New York together, including the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, and the fourth of July fireworks. Speaking with the Associated Press in September 2002, Mrs. Sumiyama tried to express her grief. “Physical problems are curable, things like not being able to talk or not having an appetite. But deep down in my heart, there’s something stagnant that’s always there, that doesn’t leave my mind. This is something that I must carry with me forever.”

“My son was lost / Forever at the Twin Towers / Although fervent has been / My wish for a serene world, / Without war and without weapons.” —Kazusada Sumiyama, from "The Songs of Ground Zero"

The Sumiyama family travels to New York City’s National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero annually. In 2008, Mr. Sumiyama was listening to a Diet debate and heard what the Mainichi states was “baseless information” related to terrorism. The couple began plowing through the 500-page 9/11 Commission Report in English, believing “reliable sources were necessary” for the Diet to have more nuanced discussions. What started as an exploration into sources became a 10-year project, culminating in the first complete Japanese translation of the commission report (Japanese). The previously published Japanese report “provides only a summary of events and omits parts on Islam.”

After a successful crowdfunding campaign (Japanese), Korocolor Publishers plans to release the book this month. "It is an indispensable document for learning why the incident occurred,” Sumiyama told the Mainichi. “It also contains sections that should be used for reference in Japanese society as well."

When Sugiyama was killed, he left behind two sons and his then-pregnant wife, Harumi. She gave birth to their third son on March 11, 2002, the exact same day when, as AP writer Chisaki Watanabe reported, “a month-long tribute [began], in which twin columns of light were beamed into the night sky from a spot near ground zero.”

Twenty years have now passed since the attacks. The number of people lost has been recorded as 2,996, but as the world reflects on this global tragedy, there are tens of thousands across the globe who must continue to endure the pain and devastation of losing a loved one to an act of terror.

At the age of 16, Sugiyama’s son, Taichi, spoke in front of a crowd in New York on September 11, 2014. He’d just finished reading aloud a few of the victims’ names. When he concluded his address, Taichi looked up at the sky and tried to speak directly to his father: “Dad, thank you for always being there with us, please stay (by) our side forever.”

A 9/11 memorial was placed near the United States Fleet Activities Navy Base in Yokosuka in 2008.

Patrick Parr’s second book, One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation, was released in March 2021 and is available through Amazon, Kinokuniya and Kobo. His previous book is The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age, now available in paperback. He teaches at Lakeland University Japan in Tokyo.

© Japan Today

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21 Comments
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I respectfully would like to address the news article regarding Mr. Kuge and ask that the author of the article (Mr. Patrick Parr) to clarify the source where he mentions texts reaching the passengers on the flight that supposedly crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I have travelled extensively both prior to and after 9/11 and never could make a call from my cellphone. Ever. (Yes, the airline flight attendants told us to turn off our phones throughout the flight. My bad!) This is a fact even when landing.

Furthermore, from a reliable first hand source I heard that the people in Shanksville never heard the sounds of a racing engine prior to the crash, where no wreckage was ever found.

-11 ( +6 / -17 )

Please click on the live link in the story.

I agree Ronin.

I personally believe there are a lot of unanswered questions with regards to that day

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Readers, please do not use this story to discuss conspiracy theories. That is not what it's about.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Readers, please do not use this story to discuss conspiracy theories. That is not what it's about.

Is this a new policy? If so, good. I look forward to it being applied to other threads going forwards.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

OK, this is not about conspiracy theories. I will duly note that and just pray for the souls who died that day.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Also, perhaps the muted color scheme of the accompanying graphic was intended to evoke the somber feeling of 9/11 yet it comes off as somewhat ‘disturbing’ to persons who witnessed the events LIVE, with it’s the poorly placed images of two cranes ‘approaching’ the Twin Towers. Who made that editorial decision?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Ronin TsukebinToday  07:42 am JST

I respectfully would like to address the news article regarding Mr. Kuge and ask that the author of the article (Mr. Patrick Parr) to clarify the source where he mentions texts reaching the passengers on the flight that supposedly crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I have travelled extensively both prior to and after 9/11 and never could make a call from my cellphone. Ever. (Yes, the airline flight attendants told us to turn off our phones throughout the flight. My bad!) This is a fact even when landing.

Furthermore, from a reliable first hand source I heard that the people in Shanksville never heard the sounds of a racing engine prior to the crash, where no wreckage was ever found.

Patrick Parr does not mention text messages reaching passengers anywhere in this article. The text message he mentioned that was received by the flight crew was via the airline's own internal messaging system, nothing to do with cell phones.

In the linked article by Adam Janos several instances of text messages between the passengers and the people on the ground are cited; are you suggesting that all those people on the ground who lost loved ones on Flight 93 are lying?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Well I'll agree that we should pause for the Japanese employees who were sent overseas, but feeling sad for a Japanese (or any) bank, is well, not going to happen.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I was surprised to see so many Japanese names when I visited the 9/11 memorial several years ago. In America, you basically never hear about foreigners that were killed in the attacks (I've heard people say "nearly 3000 Americans were killed in the attacks", as if there were zero foreigners involved that day.)

But this is New York City we are talking about here- of course there were all sorts of nationalities impacted by this event! This is a perspective that needs to be shared more inside the United States.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Arrh:

Most of the names at the memorial are Americans. We do not distinguish and create images of nationality by names.

Americans are Americans no matter the name. I wish though people from America would keep the conversations about their heritage separate from their nationality, AMERICAN.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Harry_Gatto I don't want to be off topic but to answer your question about the using my cell phone and the landing of the aircraft I am travelling in. I mean when I am merely a few hundred feet off the ground trying to call a friend or family member waiting for me at the airport seconds before touchdown. Absolutely no signal and believe me I tried many, many times.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Saying it twice doesn't make it so. There is absolutely no valid technical reason why a cell phone in an aircraft travelling relatively slowly at low altitude (a bit like being in a very fast car making a call) which is in an adequately served signal area will not work.

So, tell me, in those circumstances where you are landing and are trying to inform someone of your arrival, when did your 'phone start to work so that you could connect. At the gate, after exiting the aircraft, when exactly?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One of 40 passengers and crew (the plane had a capacity to seat 200), Kuge was on board when four terrorists stormed the cockpit and hijacked the plane. The terrorists had hoped to slam the plane into the U.S. Capitol building, but they were thwarted by the passengers and pilots. United 93 pilot Jason Dahl had learned via a text message at 9:24 a.m. that other planes had been hijacked earlier in the morning. In the end, United 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. Kuge was 20 years old, the youngest man on the plane.

 For the many on JT that say Americans are weak, having no courage, etc., which I have read numerous times, who do you think kept this plane from hitting the U.S Capitol building? Who do you think ran into the World Trade Center to save people and ended up being killed? It was Americans, both firefighters and simply passengers on the aircraft.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

asiafriendToday  06:02 am JST

 For the many on JT that say Americans are weak, having no courage, etc., which I have read numerous times...

Really? I have been here practically since it started and can't remember ever seeing that written in a comment; can you find some of the "numerous times" to quote?

Those passengers who gave their lives to save others were indeed brave people.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

When is the truth going to come out about 9/11? I'm getting fed up with reading the spin.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Details Emerge on Flight 93 By Matthew L. Wald

“Of the 33 passengers on the plane who were not hijackers, at least 10, and two crew members, spoke to people on the ground.”

        ——NYT: 22 July 2004

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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