Day 5 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “E”:
“E” is for Executive Order 9066
Imagine walking down the street and seeing flyers like the one above flapping in the wind. Imagine the flyers tell you that you have six days to sell everything but what you can carry before reporting to a Civil Control Station to be “evacuated.” Imagine everyone staring at you.
This is what happened to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. It cleared the way for 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the west coast (more than 60% were American citizens) to be sent to internment camps for the duration of World War II.
In the following excerpt, Sachi and her mother are walking to the grocery store when they notice the white pieces of paper posted everywhere.
But that afternoon, something was different. White sheets of paper hung on street lights and utility poles, flapping in the wind as though calling everyone’s attention. Store windows were plastered with them, too. People slowed to read the words, forming small crowds everywhere.
Mama took Sachi’s hand and pulled her over to where several Japanese had gathered. Some scratched notes on small pieces of paper they held with hands that trembled as they wrote.
Sachi stood on her toes to try to read the words, but the grown-ups were too tall. She jumped up and caught a glimpse of the bold letters at the top of the notice: INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY…
Mama searched her purse and pulled out a pen and a piece of paper. Sachi was able to read some of what her mother wrote:
All Japanese persons, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the above designated area by 12:00 o’clock noon Tuesday, April 7, 1942 . . . Responsible member of each family . . . must report to Civil Control Station . . . between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Thursday, April 2, 1942 . . . the size and number of packages is limited to that which can be carried by the individual or family group . . . Go to the Civil Control Station . . . to receive further instructions.
Whispers hissed through the crowd. Some people shook their heads and walked away. Mama returned the pen and paper to her purse and took Sachi’s hand.
“What did the sign say?” she asked. Maybe Mama’s answer would take away the bad feeling that made her stomach hurt. She put her other hand in her pocket and felt the crumbled cookie from Kate’s house.
Mama walked faster, and Sachi noticed she held her head higher than usual. Those who were lucky enough not to be of Japanese ancestry stared when they passed.
“Mama, why are they staring at us?”
“Do not concern yourself, Sachiko. We will do our grocery shopping on another day.”