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I am now 85 years old and am reaching the end of life. In my life, I have gone from Oppression (being incarcerated in a Japanese American concentration camp during WWII), to Assimilation into American society, and finally to Empowerment (Chief Information Officer in a multi-billion dollar company and a community activist). I have been blessed with knowing and loving many people but most of all, BJ Watanabe, my wife of 40 years, and my children from both my marriages. And I have been fortunate to live in a country that, despite its many flaws, enables people from all over the world to pursue a better life and, if they so desire, to be friends with people of all colors. Ron Osajima.
Manzanar was pitch dark when we arrived in April 1942. We couldn’t see where we were going and my mother fell into a ditch. I was very scared because I thought she might be hurt but she was fine. We did manage to locate our room and finally got to sleep.
When we got up in the morning we saw that Manzanar was on barren high desert land in the middle of Owens Valley, California. The Sierra Nevada mountains were west of us. Snow still covered the mountain peaks – a beautiful sight. Barbed wire fences surrounded the 36 blocks of 16 barracks comprising Manzanar. Armed soldiers and guard towers at the fences insured that no one escaped. Search lights swept the camp throughout the nights. 10,000 of us were incarcerated in Manzanar and 100,000 more in the other nine concentration camps. All of the camps were situated on barely habitable land.
Ron in front of part of a display in the visitor’s center-names of the people relocated to Manzanar.