My grandfather, Terumi Okazaki, was born in Oakland, California on August 6, 1927, the year of the Rabbit, to Ichimaru and Hamako Okazaki. He had two siblings, Masashi, known as “Sid,” and Maruko, or “Maru.” They lived in Oakland for 7 years. In 1934, they moved to the town of Santa Maria, along the central coast of California.
Hamako was known for her angel food cakes and other baked goods. Maru sang in the choir. Sid ran track and played tennis. Terumi, my grandfather, loved baseball and buying coca-cola at the corner store.
On February 19th, 1942, President Fanklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the mass evacuation, forced removal, and incarceration of all peoples of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. Over two-thirds of these people were American citizens. My grandfather was an American Citizen.
On April 30th, 1942 at the age of 15, my grandfather and his family were loaded onto buses and sent to Tulare. They were told to bring only what they could carry. He was incarcerated in several prison camps between 1942 and 1945, the last of which was the Crystal City Alien Enemy Detention Facility.
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D60 is the barrack my grandfather occupied in Crystal City from 1943-1945. It has long since been dismantled and demolished. It exists only in photographs of similar structures, written records, and conversations with my late grandfather.
Reconstructions often lack accuracy and authenticity. They are empty vessels, sterilized and selective visions of our past, devoid of any of the messy, raw, tragic, and imperfect generative forces of not just a historical context, but of a cultural and collective memory.
The act of preserving a building and a place that no longer exists is challenged by the violent swiftness and totality of its deliberate erasure. Perhaps we preserve this building not through empty reconstruction, but through an inaccurate yet genuine assembly, a link between past and present where the ghosts still sit, a story of a building that once belonged to my grandfather.