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To Stay Strong This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

We came to America for the better or at least that’s what we told ourselves. We ran away from Japan but came to an even worse place America. At the begging we were growing to love America my mother and I, but after the Pearl Harbor attack our world started to crumble. “Bam, Bam,” sadness and displeasure hit us like a pistol non-stop. But though we kept on falling and falling we always came back up. I remember the day we boarded the plane like it was yesterday.

There was a war! The town I once new was a bloodshed valley. The town I shared my smiles with, the tears I shed, the town I once loved was now a nightmare. My mother grabbed my hand and we pack up our suitcases and ran, ran away from the darkness and fear. We were now going to a new home, a new place called America. I admit I’d miss Japan since I lived there for the whole twelve years of my life. I wondered if my mother would miss Japan but she was too busy running to think. As we ran to the airport there were bloody bodies on the floor, the stench of the bodies watered my eyes. We finally arrived at the airport my mother handed the travel agent a couple of yens and we sat down in the middle class section. I got comfortable and my eyes started to flutter. Slowly I closed my eyes as I dreamt of what America would be like. I dreamt it would be a peaceful place just as Japan was before the government went corrupt and the war started. I dreamt and hoped for America to be a wonderful new home but I was wrong.

The next morning I felt the gentle tapping of my mother’s hand on my shoulder saying, “Mai wake up, wake up.”
I woke up and almost forgot we were on the plane the whole night. When we got off the plane we were in San Francisco, California. There were millions of people everywhere. They all looked so different from people in Japan. Everyone everywhere different, some people had golden yellow hair other dark brown chocolate skin. My mother and I waited at a pole that had a picture of some sort of bus on it. When the bus arrived we got on and my mother said it was called a double bus. We were on the bus for a couple of minutes and arrived at a hotel called, “Comfort Motel.” My mother and I would share one big bed and one restroom. Time flew as my mother and I were adjusting to San Francisco the language, the clothes, the people, and the environment.

A year passed and I turned thirteen and I will start school soon. I’ll be in eighth grade. I wondered if the children my age in America would enjoy the things I enjoyed. Like painting and writing haikus. For the past year my mother and I were living in a hotel, but finally my mother’s job as a maid paid off. My mother said she found a small apartment in San Francisco. The apartment had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Finally I would have my own room and bathroom like in Japan Moving toke a few weeks. My room was finally done it felt like I was back in Japan but it also did not.
One thing was missing my brother. My brother was my best friend and I loved him so much. But he left when the war started; the Japanese government insisted that every male over eighteen or eighteen must join the army. My brother was nineteen when he left. The day he left my mother cried. She cried a river, but the next day she was back to herself. She said there was no point crying because it wouldn’t bring him back. My brother and I looked alike. We both had silky black hair mine longer than his of course, we both had bronze golden hazel eyes. And we both have pale skin. Like usual when I am feeling sad I wrote a haiku. My haiku went like this,
“Darkness takes over
After hardship comes ease
Mai means brightness.”
My haiku came from my heart and that’s the only thing I brought with me from Japan. I framed it and put it in my room. But my mother and I still talked to my brother; he sends us letters every month. He talked about how he is and updates on the war. I hate wars and death. It seems like death just likes taking the people you love like my dad. He died when I was younger.

My birthday was coming up on October 6, 1941 and so was the first day of school for me. I hope I’ll make some new friends because I left all my old friends in Japan. It is the day of my birthday and we celebrated with a small cake and milk. My mother got me a new paint set, I loved it so much. The first picture I painted was a picture of a girl who’s crying and holds a heart in both hands. This picture symbolizes me. The two hearts represent my love for American and Japan. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Finally the first day of school approached and I got a satchel to hold my new books and supplies. I was going to start the secondary level. I went to bed earlier than usual and laid there dreaming of what school would be like. It was morning at last! I woke up early and brushed my long silky black hair. I wore my best attire a plain white blouse with a sloppy Joe sweater and a knee length skirt with small Mary Jane heels. I closed my hair with a small dotted bow and was off to school. I walked smiling the whole way. I entered the school and walked to my first class- English secondary studies. I was one of the last students to walk in and that’s when everyone started to stare, even the teacher. The awkward watching of students went on for another minute as I rushed to a seat any seat. And that’s when my worst nightmare walked in. A boy named James who would ruin my eighth grade year. James was a tall redhead freckle faced boy. Even when he walked in he had a mischievous smile on his face. He walked straight up to me and said, “That’s my seat you small eyed jerk!” I was astonished hurt by his evil words but quickly got up and moved to a different seat. I could heat the other children’s laughter in the back ground it brought tears to my eyes but I swallowed the big lump of sadness in my throat. A few minutes after that the teacher called the students name and they replied, “Here,” Then she called my name, “Mai Suzuki?” I replied in a gentle voice,
“Here,” she looked at me for a second or two like I was an alien a creature never before seen. The classes went on and soon after that it was lunch. I had brought my satchel and ate cold noodles from last night’s dinner. I also got a drink from a nearby water fountain and when I came back I saw the boy from English class, James. James still had the mischievous smile on his face and was walking slowly up to where I was sitting. James had some sort of flavored juice and poured it all over my satchel while saying, “Go back to Japan no one wants you here all you like doing is starting wars!” This brought tears to my eyes more than before and all of a sudden a burst of laughter came from students and teachers. The whole day seemed to be a torture chamber except after lunch. I went to art class and we were painting that seemed to be the only thing that made me happy. After the long day of school I walked home and immediately started my studies. While I was doing my studies I put the radio on and there was news about the war it said, “Roosevelt says the war is heating up and japans’ general is planning to attack, many Japanese soldiers have died in an explosion.” My heart skipped a beat when I heard that. I quickly prayed my brother wasn’t one of the soldiers dead. My mother came awhile after that and asked,”How was school?” I replied,
“Umm good.” After that we ate dinner and talked, I painted a few pictures and went to bed. School ended up being the same for the next couple of weeks, every day the boy James would do the same thing and each day it got worse and worse. And each day it brought tears to my eyes but I was strong.

One day in art class we were starting a new painting project. I painted a portrait of my brother and I, I was going to give it to him when he visited us just like he said in his previous letter. When I was painting all of a sudden there was water all over my portrait and the colors of paint were all dripping. My painting was ruined I looked behind to see who could do such a horrible thing. It was James, his green emerald eyes shot at my hazel eyes and he busted into an evil laugh. I busted into tears, this officially was the worse day ever but when I got home it got even worse. My mother was sitting on the sofa at home her eyes looked red as if she had been crying. She was holding a letter and I asked,
“What’s wrong?”….. No reply. I asked again,
”What’s wrong?” I asked again, no reply. I had enough I laid my satchel on the small sofa and grabbed the letter from my mother it said,
Dear Ms. Suzuki,
I’m very sorry to inform of this but your son has passed away in war. He will forever be remembered like the rest of the brave soldiers who have passed in this war.
From, Prime Minster Hideki Tojo
I looked at my mother she looked at me we both cried. Tears were dripping down our faces so much we made a small pond on the carpet. I finally had enough and ran upstairs thinking, “Why is this happing to me?” I couldn’t cry anymore because I was stronger than that and because I didn’t have enough tears left to cry. I stood up and looked in a small mirror I had and again I said, “Why is this happing to me?” And that’s when I saw my haiku right next to my Nat “King” Cole picture. My haiku has three lines and three lines only that will and did make me stronger, “Darkness takes over after hardship comes ease Mai means brightness.” I would then apply those words to any difficulty that may come and remember after hardship ease shall come.

A few days after we found out about my brother’s death we had a small traditional funeral for him. Since we didn’t have his body we buried a few of his belongings that he would have with him in the afterlife. A few months passed and life seemed to be getting better but I was wrong so wrong. It was Dec 7, 1941 a cursed day for all Japanese Americans citizens. It was the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. As any usual morning my mother and I were listing to the radio and all of a sudden the man on the radio said,
” Special breaking news today at six we countered a attack on Pearl harbor from Japan, eighteen U.S ships were hit, 1178 people were wounded. The air raid lasted until about 9:45. President Roosevelt says December 7, 1941 a date which we will live in infamy.” My mother looked at me and I looked at her, I said,
“I just can’t go to school today, I just can’t!” she grabbed me and gave me a big hug and said,
” Mai its okay I understand.” I stayed home for the rest of the week afraid of what James would do or say. Eventually I went back to school the week before winter break and everywhere I heard snickers of students all around. When I got to English class there was no James, the next class no James, and lunch no James. When I was walking down the hallway I heard two girls talking and one girl said, “Did you hear what happened to James?” The other girl said,
“What?” the other girl replied,
“The reason he hasn’t come to school this whole week is his dad was at Pearl Harbor during the explosion and his dad’s ship was hit, so his dad died.” I looked at the girl and they pointed at me and one of the girls said, “Because of her type of people!” I ran quickly and couldn’t believe what I heard and what was happening to James. I felt sorry for him. The rest of the week James didn’t come to school. To tell the truth I was a bit worried for James but I should have been more worried for myself.

It was the morning of February 19, 1942 I never knew that the day of the Pearl Harbor attack President Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066. But that day I figured out. This act meant every Japanese American in America would be taken from their home and be put in internment camps but I found out the hard way. All of a sudden U.S soldiers came to our house and grabbed us. It all happened so fast I grabbed for my mother’s hand she grabbed for mine, a picture of my brother smashed on the floor our vases and pots smashed on the floor. It was a day of torment, agony for all Japanese Americans; more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated. That is a day I’ll never forget.

“So that’s how I got here, in this camp I said to my new friend Toru I met. Toru asked, “So how long have your mother and you been here?” I replied,” Two years and this is the only thing I brought with me.” I showed her my haiku. I read it to myself, “Darkness takes over, after hardships comes ease, Mai means brightness.” Tears dropped from my eyes and I said, “This camp is a purgatory, a bottomless pit an everlasting torture chamber, but I’m still strong.” I know one day I’ll leave, I’ll leave this camp and find myself a better day a better place. But for now I’ll smile at the darkness and say I’m strong. No I will be and stay strong.





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