I am just barely home from a trip to the Japanese internment camp in Manzanar, California. For those of you for whom this name doesn’t ring a bell, here is a bit of background:
Manzanar is one of the internment camps where all Japanese Americans (including US citizens) living within 200 miles of the Pacific coast were incarcerated during World War II. I had the great honor to travel to the camp with 9 survivors who were forced from their homes on Bainbridge Island WA 70 years ago. Bainbridge Island has the dubious distinction of being the very first community evacuated in the entire United States. The Japanese Americans on Bainbridge were given 6 days to pack up their entire lives and leave their friends, farms, pets and homes behind in order to depart for an unknown destination for an undisclosed amount of time. They were allowed to bring only what they could carry.
The honor, dignity and spirit of the people from Bainbridge who lived this chapter in American history amazed and humbled me. I was touched by their willingness to share their stories, and by their enduring liveliness and sense of humor.
I was accompanied to Manzanar by my pal and pro Scott Rouse, as well as educators and community members from Bainbridge Island. I can honestly say for all of us on the trip it was a truly moving experience. I can also honestly say these octogenarians ran us into the ground with their energy! When I recover from chasing 80 year olds across the desert I will post more news and photos from the trip.
For now, here are a few images from the week and a chance to say a heart felt thank you to all of those members of the Only What We Can Carry project who so willingly shared this chapter from their lives.