SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A diverse group of Americans gathered Sept. 9 for a 10th anniversary memorial of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Buddhist Church of Florin, a historic site where Japanese Americans once gathered in 1942 to learn of their impending imprisonment in American concentration camps.
This time, however, the group gathered to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks, and to support innocent Muslim, Sikh and Arab Americans who have been targeted by the backlash.
Nineteen camp survivors in their 70s, 80s and 90s inspired the memorial and received a standing ovation from the audience of 150. The survivors, many of whom sat on the stage during the event, are: Anne and Jack Akabori, Isao Fujimoto, Al Hida, Utako Kimura, Sachiko Louie, George and Judie Miyao, Teri Mizusaka, Reiko Nagumo, Gladys Okino, Jane Okubo, Heidi Sakazaki, Kiyo Sato, Sam Shimada, Lois Tanaka, Hiroko Tsuda and Christine and Stan Umeda.
Fumie Shimada, one of the event coordinators, said that former inmates “came from eight of the 10 major camps.”
Participants from the Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Chicano, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, peace, social justice and Japanese American, among other grassroots communities, attended the event.
The Florin chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Sikh Temple of Sacramento, Council on American Islamic Relations – Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV) and Buddhist Church of Florin jointly sponsored the event.
Christine Umeda, who was incarcerated at the Tule Lake, Calif. and Topaz (Central Utah) concentration camps during World War II, spoke about the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
CAIR-SV’s Executive Director Basim El-Karra said that the JACL was the first national organization to stand up for Muslim, Sikh and Arab Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He thanked the Japanese Americans for their support.
Sacramento Sikh Temple representative Darshan Mundy explained how Sikhs continue to be victims of assaults and murders because ignorant people blame them for looking like Osama bin Laden. Mundy cited the murders of two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove, Calif., a suspected hate crime. Those responsible for the crime have yet to be brought to justice.
Former Sacramento Mayor Anne Rudin, the first elected woman mayor of the city, spoke of her close involvement with the Japanese American community, including her membership in the JACL.
U.S. Marshall Albert Nájera, a former Sacramento Police Chief, related how vital it is for law enforcement to listen to the community.
Sacramento County Undersheriff Mark Iwasa attended the memorial.
Jon Fish, president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento, opened the event with a prayer. Fish has actively reached out to include numerous religions and promoted mutual respect, cooperation and community service.
New Buddhist Church of Florin Resident Minister Yuki Sugahara, who moved from Japan last month, led a candlelight moment of silence with a ringing of the Buddhist gong. “Today’s step might be a small step for us, but without a small step, we cannot go forward,” Sugihara said.
A lively reception followed the memorial, showcasing a diverse group of people sharing their backgrounds and connecting.
Participants remarked that they had never before seen such a diverse crowd socializing in the church. Two dozen volunteers brought desserts, fruit and finger foods.
Andy Noguchi and Twila Tomita also served as event coordinators.