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Heart Mountain

During World War II, law-abiding Japanese-American citizens were herded into remote internment camps, losing their jobs, businesses and social standing, while an all-Japanese-American division fought heroically in Europe. -Tom Brokaw

“We saw all these people behind the fence, looking out, hanging onto the wire, and looking out because they were anxious to know who was coming in. But I will never forget the shocking feeling that human beings were behind this fence like animals [crying]. And we were going to also lose our freedom and walk inside of that gate and find ourselves…cooped up there…when the gates were shut, we knew that we had lost something that was very precious; that we were no longer free.”-Mary Tsukamoto

I am rendered speechless as we round the walking trail and Julia is asking a myriad of questions that I want to answer. 

I find my voice.

This happened. Here in our country. 

Not some far away place—HERE.

Reading one of the information panels, my daughter says with some relief in her tone, “oh thank God they were allowed to have fun.” 

Here at Heart Mountain Relocation Center there had been a swimming hole and football fields. Hospital, skating in the winter.

Yes, thank God that fun was “allowed,” but I know what Maya Angelou taught about why the caged bird sings. 

“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   

so he opens his throat to sing.” -Maya Angelou 

The government provided food, shelter, education, medical and, yes, fun. Yet, they were restricted, confined—imprisoned.

In a “free” country our citizens watched as neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates were forcibly evacuated, relocated, taken away in trains to internment camps. 

Americans stood by and watched. 

All based in Fear. 

We are always choosing either love or fear. 

As I stand here in the eerie silence on this flat, treeless landscape covered in buffalo grass and sagebrush, I can’t help but wonder if neighbors, friends and co-workers would sit back today and watch such a situation unfold?

I wholeheartedly choose to believe that when we know better, we do better. xo -a

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