For the past 10 years, Elk Grove USD has partnered with SECC on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR), an online archive of interviews we hope will bring history alive for students and deepen their understanding of the impact of war on individuals, targeted groups, and entire communities.
One of our first interviews, a window into World War II, was with Reiko Nagumo. Years later, we continue to share Reiko’s interview in our workshops, webinars, articles, and more. Start to finish, it is a beautiful story of loss and resilience.
Five minutes into the interview, Reiko talks about the courage of Mary Frances – a 2nd grader who crossed the playground to welcome Reiko back on the day she returned from the forced removal of her family and imprisonment in the Heart Mountain internment camp. In Reiko’s words, Mary Frances’ act of standing with Reiko “speaks volumes” and demonstrates the lifetime impact of small acts of courage and kindness. It would be hard to listen to this part of Reiko’s interview without wondering what became of Mary Frances.
Imagine our excitement when CSU, Sacramento, Librarian/Archivist Julie Thomas sent out the email several weeks ago announcing that, 70 years later, Reiko had found Mary Frances! It was thanks to the efforts of Ann Curry and PBS, as part of their We’ll Meet Again series, that the reunion happened. And how fortunate for all of us who treasure this World War II story that Curry and the PBS film crew were there (Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, CA) to document the moment as part of the series. The theme for Episode 1 was Children of WWII. This short trailer will give you a glimpse into both Reiko’s story and Curry’s style.
What could be better than viewing Reiko and Mary Frances’ story via PBS? How about traveling down to Sacramento’s California Museum to spend an evening with Reiko … and Mary Frances? Yes, Mary Frances flew out from her home in Kentucky to visit again with Reiko, this time spending the morning with Reiko at the Museum sharing their stories with visiting classrooms and then spending the evening with us. A shout out to the Museum for hosting the event, to KVIE for filming it, to Rob on the Road for balancing our tears with laughter, and to Julie Thomas for helping get the word out.
As soon as KVIE posts their recording of the event, we will add it to Reiko’s TOR interview. What a treat to watch a World War II story come full circle!
TOR Curriculum Resources:
I’m American Too – Short (16 minutes) documentary to provide overview of TOR Oral Histories Project
I’m American Too – A Story from Behind the Fences – Accompanying lesson for the documentary
In Response to Executive Order 9066 – Lesson to commemorate 75th anniversary of FDR signing EO 9066