train tracks leading to Newell, CA © kjm
I didn't have an agenda for the Tule Lake Pilgrimage this weekend, but had hoped to ask Nisei (second generation, American-born Japanese Americans who were children or young adults during the camp) I met about their particular home within the barracks. I never really got around to that, though, because everyone's background and camp history was so interesting. The variety of stories was surprising, and I learned that each family, though interned in the same camp, had uniquely compelling histories.
Among the stories, I learned about: A woman whose most vivid memory was taking their dog to the pound before leaving for camp; A family who hastily moved to an inland California location in hopes of avoiding evacuation, only to move again when interned; A woman who caught pneumonia at age 4 in an assembly center (locations where families were sent prior to internment camps) and due to security issues, was treated in a local hospital for days without a parent or guardian; Stories about burning prized family possessions because they were Japanese; A woman who happened to have been born on December 6, 1941.
But the sadness associated with some of the stories didn't dictate the tone of the weekend. It was an incredibly friendly group and conversations were made easily, in an environment that felt comfortable, uplifting and therapeutic, all at once.