Today is Day of Remembrance. On this day, February 19, in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the mass incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry in World War II. This morning, I’d like to share some of my memories of learning more about the incarceration with you:
1. Tule Lake Segregation Center (2019): This was the third incarceration site I ever visited, on the California/Oregon border. Although much of the site has been lost to modern development, some of the original buildings, barbed wire fencing, and the jail (under the awning in the photo), built in 1945, remain.
2. Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds (2019): Near the former incarceration site at Tule Lake is a museum at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds. The museum is fairly small, but most striking to me was seeing one of the original guard towers in the yard. My step-grandparents were imprisoned at Tule Lake—I can’t help wondering if this was one of the guard towers they passed every day, on their way to the mess hall or to school.
3. Central Utah Relocation Center, also known as Topaz (2007): My mom and aunt took me on my first pilgrimage to Topaz back in 2007. This is me standing in the site of my grandpa’s old barracks. This was where he lived. For three years, with these strange horizons, behind barbed wire, this was where he lived. Photo by Kats Kitagawa.
4. Central Utah Relocation Center, also known as Topaz (c. 1942-1945): This is my grandpa and his family at the very same barracks during the incarceration. Because most cameras were confiscated after the attack on Pearl Harbor, we don’t have a lot of photographs from inside the camps, but there are a few, and they are precious—glimpses of these hard years, these injustices. I haven’t forgotten, family. I hope we never forget.