Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meeting the Hattoris

As most of you know, I am the recipient of the Yoshi Hattori Memorial Scholarship. In this picture, to the left is Mrs. Hattori, to the right is Mr. Hattori, myself in the center, and my host mother and sister in the back.

For thoes of you who do not know the tragic story of Yoshi, I would like to share with you. In 1992 Yoshi was an exchange student residing in Baton Rouge Louisiana. On October 17, 1992 Yoshi and his host brother were invited to a Halloween party, and unfortunately mistook the address and arrived at the wrong residence. The home owner believed that Yoshi was tresspassing with criminal intent.

Here is a briefe discription of the events of that night, compliments of Wikipedia

"Hattori and Haymaker rang the front doorbell but began to walk back to the street where Haymaker had parked receiving no response to the ring. Inside the house, however, Bonnie Peairs had peered out the side door and saw two boys whom she did not recognize. Mrs. Peairs, startled, retreated inside, locking the door, and turned to tell her husband, "Rodney, get your gun". Hattori and Haymaker were still pondering the situation as they neared their car when the carport door was opened again, this time by Mr. Peairs, armed with a stainless steel revolver, yelling "Freeze." Simultaneously, Hattori stepped towards him saying "We're here for the party," unaware of the imminent danger. Haymaker, seeing the weapon, shouted after Hattori, but in vain as Peairs had already fired his weapon and run back inside, locking the door again. (Kernodle 2002; Fujio 2004; Harper n.d.) Hattori was shot in the chest at close range and was still alive as Haymaker rushed to him. Haymaker ran to the home next door to the Peairs' house for help and to call for an ambulance. Neither Mr. Peairs nor his wife came out of their house until the police arrived, about 40 minutes after the shooting. Mrs. Peairs shouted to a neighbor to "go away" when the neighbor called for help. One of Peairs' children later told police that her mother asked, "Why did you shoot him?".
The shot had pierced the upper and lower lobes of Hattori's
left lung, and exited through the area of the seventh rib; he died in the ambulance minutes later, from loss of blood."

I knew all of this before I applied for the scholarship, and I thought it was a tragic story. But at that point thats all it was to me. A picture, and a story. But all that changed for me, when I visited his house, and met his parents. Yoshi became so real to me. And he will remain with me, in my heart, and Ill tell his story to anyone who will listen to me....

I was so nervous to meet his parents. They set up the scholarship that allows me to be here today. They are absolutely wonderful, easy going, and so easy to talk to.

I also met Yoshi's brother, and sister.

In this picture Yoshi's brother, myself, Mrs. Hattori and Mr. Hattori.

I spent the night in their home, the first evening, I had my break down. I was shown a documentary about their son, which was extremely graphic. I saw pictures of the crime scene, the blood, and even the gunshot wound. I may have been fine in any other location, but sitting in his home, with his parents was surreal. The tears starting flowing and my head starting spinning as I looked around the walls at all of Yoshi's pictures.

Me and a picture of Yoshi in the background.
And for a moment I was angered with some of the statements from the documentary. Americans, people from my country made ignorant statements about the incident. One women even said " Well Im glad he got off cause if that boy wasnt a Japanese yall wouldnt even be here" referring to the fact that the shooter was found innocent in court.
You see, this is the whole point of exchange. To be able to see the world from another point of view, and think objectively about your own country. I love America with all my heart, and I am proud to be American, but we have some things to work on as a country.
When you ask most Japanese people if they like America they quickly answer "Yes"
I asked the Hattoris the same question and they answered honestly. Mrs. Hattori said " Each country has it's good and bad points" and then went on the explain that she has seen alot of the bad points about America.
But what is amazing about these people is that they do not hate America, and they are people who live and breathe the message they are trying to promote....Peace.
I even noticed a quote about peace, by Martin Luther King Jr. next to the computer.
I was just a little over 1 years old when Yoshi died.
And I didnt know Yoshi
I never met him
But he is truly in my heart.
His story has encouraged many people to be advocates for gun control.
And advocates for peace!

Before I left, i took a moment in front of this shrine inside the Hattori home. Many Japanese homes have them to honor their loved ones who have passed on. And Mrs. Hattori nelt with me, and told me that inside were Yoshi's ashes. So there I made a decicion that I would share with as many people as possible, this young mans story.

Mrs. Hattori was quoted in the documentary, after the trail " We will continue to love America as my son did"

I know it must have been difficult to keep that frame of mind when their precious son had just been taken away from them. But its because of the love and respect that they have shown me, that I can pass it along to you. All my readers I hope you can take something away from this story, or research a little more about Yoshi.

Peace doesn't just have to be an idea.....


Resa said...

That is.... so incredibly sad. It's amazing that you got to meet the family, and that they, even though their son died, set up the scholarship. That's so, so, so awesome.

Bart Cant said...

Hi Paris,

I was an exchange student from Belgium to the US in 1992. I was in Minnesota at that time,and I remember receiving the letter about what had happened. It had a deep impact on me at that time ( and I have not thought about this for a long time, but your story brought it all back.) I really am glad that a scholarship was setup in his name, because this is how we can make a difference.

When you are back in Charlotte I love to hear more about your visit to the Hattoris.

Bart Cant
AFS volunteer in Charlotte

aYai said...

im sad with the son...n im proud with the hattoris..but still its kinda like unfair...
ur lucky!!>_<

aYai said...

yeah..i talked with my host host sister went to afs exchange student same year with wonder yoshisan said we came here for the party coz...when the mr.gun said his means 'please'..dats wat my host mom said......owh sad,...