IKEDA, Osaka Prefecture--Children at an elementary school here vowed on June 8 to continue cherishing the preciousness of people’s lives on the 21st anniversary of a stabbing spree that killed eight students and injured 15 others, including teachers.

In a memorial service held to mark 21 years since the attack, three sixth-graders made the vow on behalf of all children at Ikeda Elementary School, which is affiliated with Osaka Kyoiku University.

“We will wish for the happiness of many people and continue to cherish the preciousness of people’s lives,” said the three children. “We will create a society where we can feel safe and secure.”

At the ceremony, bereaved families, as well as children and teachers at the school, offered silent prayers in front of a monument dedicated to the victims as bells on the cenotaph were rung shortly after 10 a.m., when the stabbing rampage occurred.

On June 8, 2001, Mamoru Takuma, then 37, stormed the school and stabbed and slashed children with two kitchen knives.

Seven second-grade girls and one first-grade boy were killed in the attack. Thirteen other children and two teachers were injured, some of them seriously.

Takuma was found guilty of the murders and was executed in September 2004.

In his address at the memorial service, Takumi Sanada, principal of the school, touched on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the shooting spree at an elementary school in Texas in late May.

“Tragedies have occurred overseas as schools, which are supposed to be a place of study, are targeted in an invasion by a country and as many people were killed in a shooting rampage at an elementary school,” said Sanada. “We can’t ensure the safety of schools if we feel powerless and turn a blind eye to this reality.”

The school has all 600 or so students attend the annual ceremony almost every year.

No guests or parents of students were invited to last year’s memorial service as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, but they were allowed to attend this year’s event.

The participants included the parents of first-graders, who participated in the memorial service for the first time.

Sixth-graders and all attendees performed songs in person this year dedicated to the victims, as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation. At last year’s ceremony, the school played prerecorded songs sung by students.

(This article was written by Kazuhide Setoguchi and Toshiharu Morishima.)