THIRD PLACE “Do They Deserve It?” by Gemma Duggins

It was a brisk fall morning in September of 1942, when they knocked on the Takahashi’s door. The family was eating a breakfast of rice porridge and bread at the table. They were chatting about the news when their pleasant meal was interrupted by three men at their door. They were tall and threatening, looming over them, holding large guns. The family was only allowed to take a few items. The rest were just left, abandoned, an image of a humble home frozen in time, left to rot. The children were crying. They didn’t understand why they had to leave. The family would all be put on a train and shipped off to California to be locked up, for who knows how long.

The soldiers didn’t treat them as if they were citizens, which most of them were. They treated them as if they were the enemy, like they didn’t even matter. With the war raging on, Japanese people were rounded up and put in internment camps. Soldiers spent weeks finding as many Japanese, or people of Japanese descent, as they could.

Richard Noble was one such soldier, and he had lived in Tacoma for most of his life. His childhood had been very privileged, and he had an older sister whose experiences had taught him a lot about life as a woman. He had seen how the world treats women, he had seen the injustice. It had taught him a very valuable lesson about how the world works.

He was watching as people were suffering, struggling to stay alive while the cold crept up on them. They waited all night for the train to come. Richard recognized one of the children. He had seen him playing in the street almost every day on his way to work. Why was he being imprisoned? He was a harmless seven-year-old boy. He was innocent.

 

It was hours of agony. It was wet and freezing, and with no way to keep warm, they were forced to just endure it. A few unlucky ones died. Frozen and exhausted, they were packed onto the train so tightly that every movement was a struggle. This is how they stayed for several days.

Richard was confused as to why these seemingly innocent people, who just wanted to be home with their families, were a threat. But he had to follow his orders. Richard’s confusion became a rising inner conflict. But he buried it, not wanting to think about it, and continued on.

When they finally arrived at the camp, Richard was shocked to see how much security was in place: Barbed wire fences, guard towers, soldiers with guns.

Over the course of several months this soldier witnessed so much violence, people getting shot and killed for trying to escape, tear-gas released upon crowds to prevent a riot, people being beaten. That conflict he had felt before once more arose as he had the same thought rushing through his head all the time.

“Do they deserve it? Their people bombed us and killed so many people, but they didn’t. Do they deserve it? If we were to let them go now, would they try to hurt us? Do they deserve it? Do they?”

Gemma Duggins is an 8th grade homeschool student who enjoys writing, art and playing Viola with the Peninsula Youth Symphony.