Friday, April 2, 2010
Nidoto Nai Yoni
On March 30th., 1942, 276 Japanese-Americans were forced to leave their Bainbridge Island homes. From the former Eagledale ferry landing on the south side of Eagle Harbor, they left with only what could be worn or carried, not knowing their destination or future. On March 30th. of this year, sixty-eight years later, my friend Gigi and I joined a gathering on that very spot, to celebrate the completion of a beautiful stone and cedar wall. It is a wall 276 feet long that curves in gentle waves, designed and built to honour those 276 bewildered souls by some wonderful folks, including neighbour and pal, John Buday. As you can see, it's a breath-taking, unique Pacific-Northwest piece of art...such a gift to the heart and soul of Bainbridge Island, where folks had a newspaper that was the only publication to speak-out about the injustice at the time, where good neighbours tried to help good neighbours in the face of Executive Order 9066.
I was covered in goosebumps, only few of them from the chilly air, to be walking on this piece of ground, on this date and most especially, to be hearing and reading personal stories of just a few of the 150 who made it back to Bainbridge. In the future there is to be a pier built, 150 feet long, that will reach reverently into the harbor, with gratitude for each son or daughter returned home. Some Elders who came on Tuesday were in the Nikkei 276. I met this delightful woman, Lily, who was seven years old at the time...and who anticipated the journey with excitement as an exotic holiday! She explained how special it was then just to get a ride on the ferry, nevermind a long train-ride. Kids will be kids; Lily smiled as she remembered fighting over who got to sleep in an upper bunk. She cracked us all up (in that dark humour way) when she told us, upon reaching Manzanar, she questioned loudly, "What kind of vacation is THIS!!"
Let this give you some idea of the lightness of Tuesday's gathering though, mark my words, one certainly felt a deep and quiet taking-in of the Wall's teaching also. It invited, by its gentle shaping, the hearts of us Pacific-Northwesterners to walk alongside the length of waves. Origami cranes and slips of paper with written thoughts flew in the breeze from black hooks, as we were led to the plaque on a stone at the wall's end amid new plantings of beautiful black grass. As the designers and builders thought, this indeed is a place of remembrance, healing and hope.
Friend and neighbour, Jan Buday, invited me to put a poem I had written about her mother Mayme (nearly seventy years to get her college diploma because of EO 9066) on a piece of origami paper. She then very patiently taught my overly-excited fingers to fold it into a crane, to be hung on the wall. Mayme and I are each others' biggest fans; she loves my music and I love everything about this most tenacious, intelligent, inspiring Elder of my community. It was an honour to honour her and to be included in the joy and appreciation of the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial Wall completion.
My friend Gigi's face shone with her emotions as she hung her rainbow string of cranes to the wall and shared wonderful conversations just up the hill, on the site of a future interpretive centre. Up there we filled-up on stories, with a side-order of cookies! Everywhere people introduced themselves and each other, with a warmth that should have brought a jealous sun out. There was, on this crisp Spring day, a real sensing of both the beauty and fragility of freedom. Nidoto Nai Yoni...Let It Not Happen Again.
For more information on future plans for this memorial, please go to www.bijac.org
First two photos by Dale Goodvin, second two by Gigi Saunders, and the last is by Jan Buday.