EDITORIAL: Lessons from Heart Mountain should guide the future

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Nearly 10 years ago, commercial airplanes became weapons in terrorist attacks, striking our nation at its core. As America reeled in the fearful and frantic hours of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta grounded all flights. In the days that followed, Mineta met with leaders in the White House and Congress to discuss our nation’s security and getting the airlines back up.

“There were a lot of people who were saying, ‘Don’t let Middle Easterners or Muslims back on the airplanes.’ And they were even talking about internment and rounding them up,” Mineta recalled.

During a meeting on Sept. 13, 2001, President George W. Bush said of those rising concerns: “We don’t want to have happen today what happened to Norm in 1942.”

Norman Mineta was one of around 14,000 Japanese-Americans relocated to Heart Mountain, living in barracks behind barbed wire as an internee — confined as a prisoner during World War II.

“History always has the ability to repeat itself, and what you are doing here is drawing that line in the sand to say that never again will there be something like what happened here at Heart Mountain,” Mineta told hundreds who gathered Saturday for the dedication of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center.

The new learning center teaches us important lessons from the past — difficult, heartbreaking, bitter lessons — so that we may make sure that this history never repeats itself.

As Japanese-Americans started their interrupted lives at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp between Powell and Cody, Powell Tribune editor Raymond Baird used this newspaper to reach out to internees living here and ease concerns of Powell area residents.

He tried to bridge the gap between different ethnicities — it is now our responsibility to bridge the gap between generations.

Many young people don’t know the significance of Dec. 7, 1941. The uncertainty and terror. The unwavering American patriotism. The forced relocation of thousands of Japanese-Americans.

Those of us who didn’t live during World War II must be taught.

The Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center exists to teach generations today, and those to come, the important stories of the Japanese-Americans who lived in Heart Mountain’s shadow from 1942-45.

We are so thankful to see that a local effort that started 15 years ago has blossomed into an international learning center where the history of Heart Mountain is preserved.

While hundreds of Japanese-Americans made the pilgrimage for the opening weekend, most Powell area residents haven’t had the opportunity to see the new learning center yet.

We encourage you to tour this world-class facility and learn about the Japanese-Americans who lived behind barbed wire in Heart Mountain’s shadow.

Read their stories. See their faces. Hear their voices.

Consider what happened at Heart Mountain.

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