Preserving The Past

Pat Nomura
Pat Nomura
Brian Niiya
Brian Niiya

(KHNL) - The moment the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Pat Kirita Nomura's life changed forever.

That day, her father was taken to jail.

"We heard the sheriff come and took my father and I remember my mother crying," said Kirita Nomura.

Kamekichi Kirita owned a store in Kohala on the Big Island.

He would then be imprisoned at the Sand Island internment camp on Oahu.

"The internment in Hawaii really consisted of community leaders and people who were thought to pose some sort danger in the event of a war with Japan," explained Brian Niiya, the resource center director at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

It's a part of history, that people know little about.

"I think it was hard time for them and they didn't want to talk about it," said Kirita Nomura.

But Niiya hopes to change this.

He's part of a team at the Japanese Cultural Center hoping to uncover the truth.

President Bush approved a bill that would allocate $38 million dollars toward this effort.

Niiya said, "It's set aside for preservation and possible acquisition of these sites where these different camps were located."

Kirita Nomura was also interned.

In 1942, she along with her mother and siblings were sent to the Jerome relocation camp.

"We got to Arkansas on January 1st and it was very, very cold," recounted Kirita Nomura, who was just 9 years old at the time.

She spent three years at camps in Arkansas and later in Arizona.

The hardships continued long after.

But she hopes this latest effort will shed new light on this dark period in our history.

"We are reminded of what had happened, so we won't make that mistake again," she said.