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Eyewitness Accounts
Confront the Dangers and
Become the Safest University in Japan

   When the helicopter accident occurred on August 13, I had just returned to my office on the fourth floor of Building 5. Relieved that it was the last day of summer session classes, I was sitting down at my desk to get back to work when I heard some female students yelling in the hallway. They were screaming and making such a commotion that I immediately ran out of my office to see what was going on. Students were dashing out of the Reference Room, and literally running up and down the hall. I casually asked one student if they had seen a snake or a ghost or something, and she said, gMs. Oshiro, a helicopter crashed. We saw it going down.h I hurried into the Reference Room and looked out the window: thick, black clouds of smoke were billowing up from the Administration Building. I instinctively knew that if everyone went rushing to the scene at once it might be dangerous, so I told the students that they were eyewitnesses and that they should watch from here.

   I passed through Building 3 and came out of the exit nearest the Administration Building. With the risk of explosions, this was as far as I could go. Many students and faculty members, all with pained expressions of shock, had already gathered. One of those who had narrowly escaped was an exchange student from Macao who happened to be working part-time in the Administration Building. As soon as she saw me, she came over and said, gMs. Oshiro, that was terrifying!h Her body was shaking. We felt even more terrified when Mr. Kuroshima, covered with a white powder that must have been from the fire extinguishers, came running over from direction of the Administration Building. From that moment, I knew deep down that a tragic disaster had occurred, and I couldnft stop shaking.

   After I was reassured that no one had been fatally injured, my emotions began to change to anger — and that anger has only grown stronger over the last two weeks since the accident. The occupation of the site by the U.S. military has been nothing more than a cover-up of the dangers of the base. We, who have had to witness the culmination of infringements of popular sovereignty and self-governance, have run out of patience, and I strongly believe that now is the time for us to raise our voices in protest.

   Ensuring that local residents can live in peace, and preserving a safe university environment for students are based on fundamental human rights that should be our top priority. But as long as the Futenma air base exists, the dangers will remain. We should leave the damaged wall of the Administration Building standing to remind us of the dangers, and raise our voices in protest to demonstrate our resolve in confronting those dangers. Shouldnft this be the driving mission — and the raison dfetre — of gthe most dangerous university in Japan?h Wouldnft such a resolve also be the touchstone, or the steppingstone, that leads us to become gthe safest university in Japan?h Our determination could also be a steppingstone that reaches out from the university and the local community to all people in Okinawa, and by extension, all citizens of Japan.

Tomoko Oshiro
Professor
Okinawa International University

 

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