By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
Welcome home. Ten years after dedicating the Terminal Islanders Monument, the former residents returned again on Oct. 6 to celebrate the bittersweet legacy of their former home. More than 300 gathered in front of the monument that depicts two determined Japanese fishermen casting their nets into the waters.
LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara, whose parents were both from Terminal Island, served as master of ceremonies. Long Beach Polytechnic High JROTC presented colors and Midori Sanchez led the Pledge of Allegiance. The national anthem was performed by Erika Olsen.
Dignitaries attending the rededication included Rep. Janice Hahn and Deputy Consul Masahiro Suga.
“As we stand here, we are transported back in time when it was a thriving fishing village,” said Suga.
Much has changed at Terminal Island and little remains of the small fishing village. The bustling life of the tight-knit village where Japanese was freely spoken and women worked in the canneries ended abruptly following the signing of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942.
However, Dr. Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, shared with the gathering that there are still remnants of the village.
During a recent survey of buildings, it was found that two buildings from the village are still standing on Tuna Street. Port of L.A. is in the process of publishing a book on the history of Terminal Island.
“We tend to talk about containers and dredging. This is going to be about the people who lived on Terminal Island,” said Knatz. “We want to get to know all of you. We want to reach out to gather the stories and photos.”
The large gathering was a testament to the closeness of the villagers and their determination not to lose that spirit, despite the tragic circumstances that took them from their homes.
Min Tonai, president of Terminal Islanders, shared some of the island’s history and recalled children catching crabs and pompano fish in the waters off the island.
He became emotional when he recalled returning to his classroom in San Pedro shortly after Japanese Americans were told they had to evacuate.
“When the Terminal Island kids came in, the kids in my homeroom stood up and clapped,” Tonai said, his voice breaking. He said he even received an invitation to the 10-year reunion from the friends they had to leave behind.
Following the ceremony, L.A. City Fire Station #11 saluted the Terminal Islanders with plumes of water from a fireboat. The fire station has also watched over the monument. Hara noted that in the past 10 years there hasn’t been a single incident of vandalism.