I have made the trip up Hwy 395 many, many times.
I have never before stopped at Manzanar.
I have thought about it, especially when Skye was with me. It was a part of our history I knew little about, but I was always in too much of a rush to learn more.
The other day we stopped.
It was a beautiful day.
The weather was gorgeous.
The experience was intense.
We left a bit shell-shocked, saddened, humbled, embarrassed, confused and knowing a lot more about a small but important part of our history.
Japanese Internment Camp was what I had always heard Manzanar referred to. The US Government called it a "War Relocation Center" It was a concentration camp.
"A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not because of any crimes they have committed, but simply because of who they are."
It was also called voluntary, although the "relocation" or "evacuation" happened under presidential order and armed military personnel.
"In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II."
Manzanar was just one of those and at its height housed over 10,000 people.
We arrived just in time to watch a documentary about Manzanar.
It was hard for us to watch.
Very much like the Martin Luther King exhibit it was difficult to imagine the injustices that happened so recently in this country.
But so important to remember and keep in mind.
Only one of the 8 Guard towers is left standing and only a handful of the many barracks are still left standing. Even after seeing the model and the pictures and the videos it was hard to imagine Manzanar as it once was.
150 people died at Manzanar.
15 were buried here, six burials remain today.
The Manzanar War Relocation Center closed in 1945.
If you find yourself speeding along Hwy 395, do your best to stop at Manzanar.
It will take some time. It isn't fun. It is worth it.