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Passenger: Toshiya Kuge

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Toshiya Kuge "wanted to be friends with people" and to study in America, he wrote in an essay for a class he took earlier this year at the University of Utah.

Toshiya Kuge
dot.gifSophomore, School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, Tokyo, 20, Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Parents, Yachiyo and Hajime
He was flying home after vacationing and visiting colleges in the United States and Canada

At home in Japan, the 20-year-old cut back on playing soccer to join an American-style football team. In Utah, he spent the month of April in an intensive program intended to help him improve his English speaking and writing skills.

His late-summer vacation to the United States and Canada was to be part recreation and part preparation for his goal of obtaining a graduate degree from an American university. He was on his way back to college in Japan when he boarded Flight 93.

Kuge grew up in Toyonaka City, and graduated in 1999 from Kitano High School, where he was a well-regarded student and goalkeeper on the soccer team. He was a sophomore studying design and creation of materials in the science and engineering department at Waseda University in Tokyo.

About half of the graduates from that program go on to enroll in master's-degree programs. Kuge planned to be among them, and in spring 2001 joined about 20 other Waseda students for a four-week English-language seminar at Utah.

Kuge returned to Japan for the summer before flying Aug. 29 to Canada to check out universities in Vancouver and go rafting at Jasper National Park. Although he was alone, he was outgoing enough to get acquainted and share the enormous lunch he'd packed with rafters Kristine White and Debbie Schiies of Chicago.

In a letter to Kuge's mother, the women wrote of how they'd been struck by Kuge's friendliness and appreciation of nature. From Jasper, he traveled east to tour the area around Niagara Falls.

"He had long wanted to see both faces of Niagara Falls, from the Canadian and U.S. sides," said his mother, Yachiyo Kuge. Intending to visit a Waseda classmate, he went on to New York City, but was unable to hook up with his friend.

Kuge was due in Japan Sept. 12. His memorial service at an Osaka hotel was packed with relatives and friends. In Utah, counselors were summoned to meet with students who'd known him there.

"We are still desperate to know what happened during our son's final moments," said Kuge's mother, who traveled to the Somerset County crash site and left a Japanese flag and intricate origami birds there in his honor.

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