Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Diana Morita Cole Interview
Narrator: Diana Morita Cole
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 30, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-483-7

<Begin Segment 7>

VY: So, Diana, so before we move on to Chicago, let's go back a little bit and see if there's anything more you want to talk about, about when your family left Hood River.

DC: So that day is very much seared into my memory because it was on my sister Flora's birthday, May 13, 1942. And what I was told by my brothers and sisters was that they all piled into a truck that Paul was driving, my eldest brother, Paul, was driving. And most of them were in the back, so perhaps my parents were in the front, not sure. I believe my grandfather got there in a different way. And my sister, Ruth, being this wonderfully kind person, she sang the song "My Sister and (I)" And evidently, I looked at the lyrics, and it's so poignant. It's about two young girls being torn away from their country in Europe under similar circumstances. And (Ruth) she made them all sing that song. And my sister, Betty, was riding in the back carrying a bouquet of flowers that her classmates had picked for her, and my brother, Claude, remembered this very vividly. And when they showed up at the train station, Margie Bryan, who was my sister Flora's best friend, was there with her mother, and they gave my sister, Flora, a birthday cake. So here they are surrounded by armed guards, tagged with numbers so they were no longer people, they had this identity that was given to them that was really cold and impersonal and bureaucratic, something similar that was done in Hitler's Germany. And this incredible act of humanity by the Bryan family to show up there, and I don't know, to this day, if I would do something like that, and put myself in that kind of possible social jeopardy if not physical jeopardy because there were men with guns there, and to hand someone, who was being taken prisoner, a birthday cake.

And so my brother, Claude, saw that, and he waited for his friends to show up. And as they boarded the train, and my sister, Flora, carried the cake onto the train, he kept looking to see if anyone would show up. And even as they were pulling out of the station, he would peer behind the shade even though he was told not to by the soldiers. They were told not to raise the shade or to pull it back, because... well, for whatever rational reasons they made.  but Claude kept looking, hoping that he would have seen at least one of his friends, and he never did. And to this day, I believe that that was a trauma my brother, Claude, never got over. He was about fifteen at the time, a time of great turmoil anyway for adolescents, when you're coming to terms with adulthood, moving from childhood to adulthood, and to have this stark reality facing you, that all those people you played with in school didn't care enough about you to even come and say goodbye. And so I believe that this is why my brother, Claude, lives in Japan, even to this day. And he'll often talk about, "My friends never came, but Flora's friend came, Margie Bryan."

And Margie and her father even came to visit Flora in Tule Lake. And so I've written a story about these two girls at the fence, and that's where Flora met Margie and exchanged news about where Margie had been. Margie had gone to the Grand Canyon on vacation, and Flora didn't know what a vacation was. And so girls who had grown up with a sense of companionship and equity, the word we use now, but certainly wasn't something that was used then, suddenly they become unequal, right? So the one on the outside who was of German extraction, and who looked like the enemy just as much as we did, had freedom, privilege, and also the humanity to come and acknowledge Flora and their friendship and her life and what it meant to her. And poor Flora is standing there, so suddenly they are totally unequal. And I think those types of experiences really drove home to my siblings that they were of inferior status. And they don't say that, but when we are victimized, particularly unfairly -- of course, usually that's what the word implies -- but politically unfairly, we don't know this, but we actually internalize that discrimination. So there is something that was internalized racism. So you say, well, I'm here, look at my house, I don't even have a house anymore, I'm living in this shack, this barrack, and my friend, who I love and played with, has a different lifestyle than mine, and political freedom. And so even though they corresponded their whole lives, and Margie came to visit Flora in Chicago after she graduated from the university, of course, Flora hadn't graduated from university. And so I think from then on, even though they had corresponded, they knew their lives had gone in different directions and were never going to be, it was never going to be repaired. And so that was something I learned from hearing that story. And when... this is an interesting footnote to that story. When Margie Bryan was on her deathbed, she died of cancer, I believe, she told her husband, "When I die, I want you to renarry, and when you remarry, I want you to marry a Nikkei," and he did. And that was the extent of her loyalty and attachment, I think, to Flora. And when I told that story very recently in Chattaroy, which is outside of Spokane, because I was invited to speak there, the kids just ate that up, they just thought that story just meant so much, and they were crying. It's a great story to tell; it's a very impactful story.

Betty had a visit in Tule Lake from her teacher, her second-grade teacher in Odell, it was Ms. Heaton, and I've written a story about that (experience). And Ms. Heaton obviously was a very extraordinary person that she would think to step into a prison camp, right, to visit her former student. And there were two of them, Johnny Tamino and Betty Morita, and she wanted to see how they were doing. And (Ms. Heaton) was going to visit her friend that lived close by, so she decided to stop by at the camp. We don't know how she got into the camp, but obviously if she were white and she knew she had an acquaintance with these people, she had a connection, she would be allowed in, and she was. And Betty remembers receiving her at the front door of their barrack, and I said to Betty, "How did you feel?" And (she) said, "I felt ashamed." And so this is what I told the students at Chattaroy, that you internalize the shame because you have no political power to express it, your outrage, so you internalize it. And it's something that I feel very sad about, and I wish I had been there, but of course I wasn't, and so it sort of brings out this need for me to want to rescue people that are in bad situations.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.