INDEPENDENCE, Inyo County — Carol Hironaka steps off the chartered bus and into the midday heat. She had forgotten how hot it can get here, she says. Hironaka readjusts her straw hat and moves on.

Later, during the half-mile hike, concerned friends ask if she would like to stop and rest. No, Hironaka, answers politely. She wants to continue.

She is determined to see the place where she and her family had been imprisoned. . .

More than 10,000 people once lived on one square mile here. Every year thousands travel to this small town in the eastern Sierra Nevada foothills to remember them.

For the second year in a row, a group of Sacramento area residents recently joined hundreds from across the state in a pilgrimage to Manzanar, a trip described by several as a religious experience and a reaffirmation of the human spirit.

They are teachers, state workers, doctors, students — 50 local people who have traveled seven hours to the site to hear speeches and participate in an interfaith ceremony, but mostly to learn about the past. Thirteen were former internees at various camps.

Four had been interned at Manzanar.

Most are Japanese Americans, but it is a diverse group, including several Muslim Americans.

“We know what it’s like when a community is isolated and singled out due to war hysteria,” says Hamzah El-Nakhal, a retired university professor and president of the Sacramento Valley Council on American- Islamic Relations.

“There was a climate of fear then, and there is one now,” says El-Nakhal.


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