SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A special event was held at San Jose State Wednesday in remembrance of a dark moment in U.S. history.
The event was held ahead of the anniversary that marks 81 years since 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.
That order, signed on Feb. 19, 1942, was a response to the Pearl Harbor attack.
"There was this fear of national security, the fear of California and the United States being attacked by the Japanese military," said former U.S. representative Mike Honda. "Racial bigotry folded into it."
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Honda and his family were some of those sent to the internment camps.
The thousands sent there had most of their belongings stripped. They were forced to live in places like horse stables and barracks with no running water.
Two-thirds of those who were incarcerated were American citizens.
90-year-old Shirley Kuramoto, who lived in Menlo Park at the time, was one of them.
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She shared some of her heartbreaking experiences at the San Jose State event commemorating the issuance of the executive order.
"One day I went home and my mother says to me without any explanation, 'We're gonna move,'" Kuramoto said, "I said 'What's going to happen to our dog Shiro?' Shiro was our pet dog and this was my main playmate, this little dog and to this day I never knew what happened to my little pet."
Honda says the impacts of the executive order to the Japanese community in the U.S. were crippling.
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"It impacted our community, to a point where it really put a damper on our creativity," he said, "Our willingness to expand into the greater community."
The U.S. finally apologized to Japanese Americans in 1988. Surviving Japanese Americans got $20,000 in reparations.
Still, the hurt remains, and the hope is that important lessons can be learned from the dark moment in U.S. history.
"My hope for today, is that everybody will start looking at their own history in this country and understand it," Honda said, "Write about it, talk about it, and share it, so that our future youngsters that come up through our system will be informed."
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