March 2009 -

The Hub

First Responders

Red Square suicide
Photo by Justin Norman

In the otherwise horrifying story of In Soo Chun, a troubled former UW employee who committed suicide Oct. 30 by setting himself on fire in "Red Square," there was a glimmer of humanity—the reaction of students. They emptied their water bottles on the fire, beat at it with jackets and ran to get extinguishers. "People reacted almost instantaneously, even though there was some danger to themselves," Assistant UW Police Chief Ralph Robinson told The Seattle Times. One extraordinary student, senior Joji Kohjima, saw Chun dousing himself with gasoline and tried to intervene. "I knew what I was seeing immediately because I am a Buddhist and I know the history of self-immolation," he wrote in an e-mail to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Kohjima retreated after slipping on the wet bricks and getting his clothes soaked with gas. He stripped to his boxer shorts and retrieved a fire extinguisher from Odegaard Library, by which time other students had gotten the flames out. So Kohjima lay down next to Chun "and began to pray loudly, so that he could hear me."