MIAMI (CBS4) – The disaster in Japan has many people offering help. It also has many people thinking about America’s relationship with Japan.
More than a million Japanese Americans live in the United States.
CBS4 anchor Shannon Hori is one of them.
This is a piece of her family history, and also American history.
Several years ago, Shannon went with her grandmother, 89-year old Helen Hori, to one of ten internment camps where the U.S. government relocated 120,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Beginning in 1942, Shannon’s grandmother lived at Manzanar located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Central California.
“I love that mountain,” Helen Hori said while pointing at the mountain. “Every day I’d look and say ‘God bless you’ …at least we’ve got you.”
Japanese Americans were forced to sell everything before going in the camps, for pennies on the dollar. This included their cars, homes, and businesses.
Shannon’s grandfather’s family had to sell the Hori Brothers Trading Company in California, a successful business that was ripped away from them when they were, for all practical purposes, imprisoned at Manzanar.
“Wasn’t much choice of what to bring except clothing,” Helen Hori said.
Going back now she says it gives her “a strange feeling, because the barracks (we lived in) are gone. But I do remember that mountain. It’s still beautiful. That seems changeless.”
At Manzanar, Helen Hori was a new wife, and it’s where she became a new mother.
Her baby, Shannon’s father, has his name among those interned at Manzanar. Next to his name there’s a “B” which stands for “born at Manzanar”.
Helen Hori says her labor was long, made worse by no anesthesia.
“I was very stoic about the whole thing,” she told her granddaughter Shannon. “I’m a very strong person.”
But she admits that she was angry. She was born in California and so was her husband. They were American citizens like more than two-thirds of those interned in the camps. But they couldn’t leave, because barbed wire surrounded them and there were armed guards in towers.
“It was difficult, but we adjusted,” she said.
But many of them lived by the belief to accept what you cannot change.
In 1988 the Federal Government granted $20,000 to each surviving internee.