Friday, Apr 29, 2011
On April 14, 2011, Fumiko Hayashida, encircled by family and friends, stepped out of a van at Manzanar National Historic Site and quietly said “I’m home.” It was an emotional return for a woman who had not been back since 1943 when she, her husband, and three small children left Manzanar to transfer to Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho (www.nps.gov/miin).
On March 30, 1942, Fumiko and her 13-month-old daughter Natalie were immortalized in a famous photo of a mother holding her sleeping daughter as they were led under armed guard off of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Bainbridge Island was the first community to be forcibly removed from their homes and communities under Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942. Like more than 120,000 other Japanese Americans they were confined during World War II, without charges and without due process.
Fumiko and Natalie were accompanied on their return to Manzanar by former internees Lily Kitamoto Kodama, Frank Kitamoto, and Ted Kitayama (Lily and Frank are Fumiko’s niece and nephew). Mary Woodward, daughter of newspaper publishers Walt and Milly Woodward joined them. Walt and Milly’s story is fictionalized in the book and movie Snow Falling on Cedars as well as in Mary’s book In Defense of Our Neighbors.
The trip was organized by Global Source Education (http://www.globalsourcenetwork.org/OWWCC-Home.htm) which has brought former internees and educators from Bainbridge Island to Manzanar for the past three years. Park staff spent two days and evenings with the Islanders, trying to keep pace with Fumiko as she toured the Manzanr. On April 15, the Islanders participated in a public panel discussion, followed by a book and photo signing. Manzanar visitors and staff alike relished the unique opportunity to welcome Fumiko and her family and friends back to Manzanar.