Manzanar Survivor Speaks at HMS

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Manzanar Survivor Speaks at HMS

Gretchen Grizzell, Staff Writer

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“It was the second saddest day of my life, mainly because I had no idea what was going to happen.” At the age of ten, Mr. Mas Okui was put in a Japanese internment camp just because of his race. After the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941, all Japanese-Americans living in the USA had to go into internment camps because the US government thought the Japanese living here in the USA could be spies for the enemy, just because they looked like the enemy.

In 5th grade, Mr. Okui was given only one week to sell all his family’s items and pack a small backpack or as much as they could carry to take to Manzanar. “When my mom told my brother and I that we were going to camp, we both thought that we were going to one of the YMCA camps,” Mr. Okui said, as he tells Huntington Middle school kids of his experience at Manzanar. When Mr. Okui’s family did have to start packing to leave, his mom gave him and his brother each a bed sheet to pack what they could carry.

Mr. Okui was 1 of only 2 Asians in his class when he had to leave for Manzanar. There was one Chinese and one Japanese, himself, in Mr. Okui’s class at the time. When the time came for Mr. Okui to leave, he went to go say goodbye to his classmates. “On my last day at school before going to internment camp, I experienced the most embarrassing day of my life. When I was saying goodbye, my teacher kissed me on the cheek in front of the whole class,” Mr. Okui said as he described his last few days of school before evacuating to the camps.

When it was finally time to go to Manzanar, Mr. Okui and his family drove in a very dirty and bumpy bus to Manzanar. When they arrived, they got a family number, which was 3996. The barrack was only 12 feet by 25 feet, that had to fit 12 people. Also, in the barracks, while the parents got a normal bed to sleep in, kids and teens had to get sheets and fill them with straw to sleep on. Mr. Okui had no privacy to do anything like he used too back home. “In the bathrooms, there were no walls that separated one toilet from the next, ” Mr. Okui said. Having the lack of privacy made Mr. Okui realize how much he missed his home.

After the war ended, all Japanese-Americans had to leave Manzanar and find a place to live. “After the war, we didn’t get our money or possessions back,” Mr. Okui said, as he finished up his speech about Manzanar. Mr. Okui’s family didn’t have a house to go back to and his parents didn’t have jobs to go back to, so Mr. Okui’s dad became a part-time farmer to raise enough money for their family to buy a farm to live on. When Mr. Okui came to Manzanar, he was in 5th grade and when he left, he was in the 9th grade.

Mr. Okui came to HMS on Friday, January 11th. He was joined by Mr. Hal Suetsugu. The presentation, in front of most of the 7th grade class,  lasted for about 40 minutes, and it was held in the cafeteria.




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