BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance, hundreds of volunteers spent Saturday morning cleaning the grounds of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.
The memorial leads to the Eagledale ferry dock where the first of more than 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps during World War II.
Volunteer Lillian Xie says she came to not just help clean up, but to help the community remember why the memorial was built in the first place.
"Despite how quaint and how lovely this island is, we have a history of where we forgot to stand for each other," said Xie.
Eighty years ago today, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the forced removal. A winding wall made out of red cedar inside the memorial honors the 276 people removed from Bainbridge Island.
The Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association organizes the clean-up every year.
"Every few years the wall needs to be cleaned, it's first cleaned with oxy clean and then with water to wash the acid off," said association president Val Tollefson.
With this year marking 80 years of remembrance, the association teamed up with the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation to help widen the reach of volunteers.
"When community can come together in a park space to mobilize together, learn and unlearn and heal it's even more powerful than coming to a memorial and seeing it alone," said Mary Meier, executive director of the foundation.
Saturday's clean-up was one of two beautifying projects leading up to March 30; the day residents were forcibly removed from the island.