Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted at 5:22 p.m., March 4, 2001

Healing ceremony helps all to move on

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaiian chanters stood on the bow of the Polynesian Voyaging Society canoe Hokule'a late this afternoon, to toss leis and traditional offerings into the seas above where the Ehime Maru sank three weeks ago after being rammed by the Navy submarine Greeneville.

A hundred yards away family members of those lost in the accident stood at the bow of the Hawaiian Rainbow and watched the multicolored leis float in the rough blue waters nine miles off Diamond Head. A mother brought a dark handkerchief to her face to cover her tears.

“We are giving our aloha and this canoe carries that expression,” said Hokule'a navigator Nainoa Thompson. “This is a day of honoring and healing.”

The ceremony was open to the public and as many as 500 people came with lei and aloha to remember the nine men and boys who are missing from the Japanese training vessel.

The Ehime Maru ceremonies were held while preparations continue for a military inquiry tomorrow into how the USS Greeneville came to ram the Ehime Maru nine miles from Diamond Head on Feb. 9.

Three senior officers from the submarine are the subjects of the inquiry.

Relatives of five of the victims cried and clasped leis as the Hawaiian ceremony unfolded. Jake Shimabukuro, the virtuoso uke player, strummed a musical piece written in remembrance of the missing.

Family members later sailed to the scene of the accident to scatter flowers across the waters.

Hirohisa Ishibashi, mayor of Uwajima, the boat’s hometown, said when he first got word of the Feb. 9 accident, “I wished so hard that it was a bad dream.”

“We really need to be told what happened in the submarine,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to prevent anything like this from happening again.”

Tomorrow, family members are expected to attend a formal investigative hearing by the Navy that seeks to explain why the USS Greeneville rammed the Ehime Maru while demonstrating an emergency surfacing maneuver for 16 civilian guests.

The ship, carrying 35 people, was on an expedition to teach teen-agers how to become commercial fishermen when the Greeneville plowed through its hull. Four high school students, two teachers and three crewmen never were found.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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