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Day of Remembrance: 80 years after US citizens became prisoners

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. It led to one of the darkest periods in U.S. history.

GRANADA, Colorado — It's an unassuming piece of land that tells an important story.

The Granada War Relocation Center in southeastern Colorado, also known as Camp Amache, was where more than 7,000 people were imprisoned during World War II.

Not because they were criminals or because they were spies or because they were sympathetic to the Japanese government. They were prisoners because they looked like the enemy.

Executive Order 9066 led to the U.S. Army rounding up Japanese Americans, most who were U.S. citizens, and relocating them to 10 Internment facilities, like Amache, in remote places across the country.

Citizens lost their property and left behind their jobs, homes and lives.

Marge Taniwaki, of Denver, was a girl when she was taken with her parents to the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California.

"I would always hold my mother's hand and not speak," she said. "I remember I used to watch the bugs crawl up and down the tar paper-covered mess hall, just to amuse myself while waiting in line."

Credit: Amache Preservation Society

Derek Okubo, director of the Denver Agency for Human Rights, talked about his parents and grandparents who were interned at Amache.

He asked his dad what life was like there. His dad told him, "There's a fine line between hope and despair on a daily basis."

The prisoners made the best of a bad situation for the four years they were there. They started schools, planted gardens, and formed scout troops, baseball teams and recreational facilities. But they were still surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire.

Okubo said it's a history that is shameful and painful.

"We're tired of the history not being told," he said. "We're tired of history being swept under the carpet because it's uncomfortable."

That's one reason so many people in Colorado are grateful that a bill in Congress is about to become a reality.

The Amache National Historic Site Act would make the Colorado site into a National Historic Site, under the management of the National Park Service.

The act would help preserve the site and open it up for educational opportunities, so people can learn what happened there and at the other Internment Facilities.

Supporters of the bill said it's important to keep reminding ourselves of what can happen when we let hate take control. That's something to think about on this landmark Day of Remembrance.

RELATED: Amache site closer to being part of National Park Service after Senate vote

RELATED: Woman’s diary sheds light on what life was like for Japanese American in Colorado after Pearl Harbor attack

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