Article I - Magical Liberation Weekend
Liberation Weekend at the MacArthur Memorial, April 22-24, was truly a celebration of freedom. The dedication of the Liberation Plaque and opening of the new special exhibit Behind Barbed Wire: Japanese Internment Camps in the Philippines, 1941-1945 was a special moment for the MacArthur Memorial. More than 50 former internees from Baguio, Santo Tomas and Los Banos internment camps and veterans of the 1st Cavalry Division, 44th Tank Battalion and 24th Marine Air Group attended the ceremony and created an atmosphere that was just magical the whole weekend. It was a large family reunion of people who had once bonded together under the most trying circumstances, many of them children at the time, who still share the same bond 60 years later.A weekend forecast of rain was ignored by all. Even if it had, the rain would not have dampened the exuberant spirits of these people in the slightest. The honored guests gathered together at the local "Blue Plate" restaurant the night before the dedication ceremony. Former internees that had not seen each other for 60 years, since the liberation of their internment camps in 1945, were brought together again. The place was simply abuzz with excitement and laughter. As a highlight, filmmaker Lou Gopal and his wife Michelle previewed scenes of their yet to be released documentary "Visions of Circumstance" about life in Santo Tomas Internment Camp. Karen Kerns Lewis then shared some prewar movies of her family in Manila that included many of the people in the crowd. It was a fantastic night and everyone cleared out before the Rock-n-Rollers took over the restaurant. Thanks a million to Gary McIntyre, Dave Hansen, Rob Thompson, Amanda Janes and Kendall Heath of the "Blue Plate," and to the MacArthur Memorial’s own Cynthia Stevens, who served as hostess for the night. It was superb.
Curator Katherine Renfrew’s new exhibit, Behind Barbed Wire, is a fitting tribute to the memory and history of the Japanese internment camps in the Philippines. Highlighted are many photographs and artifacts provided by the internees themselves. The craftsmanship of Norfolk Civic Facilities painter Sam Sitzler and carpenter John Frahm was flawless and to them also a great debt is owed by the MacArthur Memorial. The approval of the internees and veterans of the exhibit was a true blessing. The special exhibit will run through February 2006.
Though everyone tried to slow the time, one by one they all, like MacArthur, began to fade away. Goodbyes and "keep in touches" were thrown to the wind and then all was done. As the last chair was put on the Norfolk Civic Facilities truck the heavens finally opened up. The rain had held off for two days and at the last second came down in a torrential downpour. One former internee was left in the square and as he made his way into the Theater someone yelled, "Hurry up it’s starting to hail." His reply was "It’s all right I’ve been through a lot worse." (Article written by MacArthur Memorial Archivist, James Zobel.)