By Phil McMullin
Unless you read last week’s issue of The Gatepost or were among the few to witness the last,
anticlimactic few minutes of Thursday’s Memorial Grove ceremony, you probably still have no clue about Asako Mazawa.
To briefly recap what was reported last week, Asako Mazawa was a Japanese international student at FSU who died in a motorcycle crash in 1997.
Mazawa had decided, despite it being taboo in Japan, to become an organ donor in the United States. The decision to go against her culture ended up saving the lives of six people following her tragic accident.
Her family funded the construction of a memorial garden in honor of their daughter, and some of her ashes were buried there.
Then, due to the construction of the Hemenway Labs, her ashes were dug up and stored in a cabinet for two and a half years.
Finally, following the completion of construction, her ashes were reinterred. One might think the reinterring of the ashes of a student whose organ donations saved the lives of six people would warrant notifying the student population, but the administration felt differently.
Asako Mazawa’s name was not mentioned in either the emails or the advertisements for the Memorial Grove Dedication Ceremony. Her story was kept silent by the administration, as it had been for the two and a half years beforehand.
The lack of notice that the ashes were being reinterred was no surprise, given the haphazard approach the administration chose to take while assembling Memorial Grove. As Associate Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Warren Fairbanks said, the administration “kind of winged it.”
This “kind of winged it” method was more than apparent on Thursday. Asako was mentioned only at the tail-end of the ceremony, and a placard had not yet been made to cover her ashes.
Instead, a small pot of flowers is temporarily plugging the hole where the ashes were reinterred. The flowers are not secured in the ground and one of the campus’ many skunks could easily dig it up.
There are many things the administration can “kind of wing” successfully, but maybe memorializing the dead is not one of these things.
With the poor advertising and the absence of a permanent memorial for Mazawa, the quickly thrown- together memorial seemed to give oL the message that after two years in a cabinet, the administration did not care much about the reinterred ashes.
The ceremony in which Mazawa was only mentioned briefly appeared to be a way for the
administration to finally get the ashes off of their hands, instead of an opportunity to truly pay tribute to one of our most heroic students.
Although she died in the late nineties, it is important to remember that Asako Mazawa was and remains a part of FSU’s community and history. It is easy to dismiss how her ashes have been handled, but I urge students to remember that what happened to Mazawa could happen to anyone of us.
This is not only an issue of the administration disrespecting a deceased student, this is also an issue of the administration disrespecting the legacy of the school.
The Memorial Grove Dedication Ceremony is finished, and it is too late for a do-over. But, perhaps this message will reach the administration. Perhaps in the future memorials for deceased, heroic students will be advertised to the community.
Perhaps these memorials won’t be “winged,” but instead properly organized and planned for.