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Tragedy of sarin attack hard to erase • Friday March 21, 2003

Asahi News (Japan), Mar. 21, 2003

Victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack by Aum Shinrikyo on the capital’s subway system were remembered at a ceremony Thursday. A senior cultist later made an appearance.

At Kasumigaseki Station, subway staff observed a moment of silence at 8 a.m., the same time the nerve gas was released inside subway cars, eight years ago, on March 20.

Twelve people were killed and more than 5,000 others were injured in the terrorist attack.

Fumio Tajima, stationmaster at Kasumigaseki Station, laid a wreath of white lilies upon an altar.

“We are offering our prayers for the victims who lost their lives, while hoping for the speedy recovery of those who are still in treatment,” Tajima said.

He also promised, “Subway staff will be doing our very best to provide safe transportation for our passengers.”

Hiroshi Araki, Aum’s public relations head, made an appearance around 10 a.m. to lay flowers for the victims. The cult renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.

For relatives of the victims, time seems to be at a standstill. The impact of the attack still lingers.

Two subway station workers, Tsuneo Hishinuma, 51, and Kazumasa Takahashi, 50, died while trying to remove the sarin packs that were wrapped in newspapers.

Hishinuma’s wife, Michiko, 59, couldn’t sleep from stress, after losing her husband. She spent three years in treatment.

Michiko said: “This time of the year is always difficult for me. The incident will never go away, not for us.”

If tragedy had not struck eight years ago, her husband would have retired by now, she said. They had planned to move to the countryside, and Hishinuma had planned to spend his days fishing.

Takahashi’s wife, Shizue, 56, was shocked by the news of an arson attack on the subway system in Seoul last month.

She couldn’t bear to watch the gruesome images on TV.

“When I saw the charred subway car, my heart began beating fast. My fingertips went icy cold,” Shizue said.

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