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As a kid I remember flipping through the pages of a book my Japanese-American grandfather made for me and my family. There's the ink drawing of an old-timey radio broadcasting the news of the Pearl Harbor attack and the colored pencil sketch of the small wood stove in the family's barracks at the Minidoka internment camp.

I once asked if he thought such injustice as forced relocation and incarceration could ever happen again. He said yes -- because people will tell and believe all sorts of stories in the name of safety.

As we mark the anniversary of September 11th, I mourn the passengers on the planes and all of those who didn't make it out of the twin towers or The Pentagon in time.

But there's something else to mourn here too -- that both planes and stories can be hijacked, and though the consequences are not fully comparable, they can both be destructive.

The stories of all the people who lost their lives that day have been leveraged into a narrative that to be American is to be under attack. The response after September 11th was similarly flawed to our response after December 7th, 1941, singling out descendants of nations that we feared.


The mass murders perpetrated by terrorists are unjustifiable. But to appropriate the stories of thousands of victims to fuel a narrative which continues to turn us against each other, and against much of the world at large does not serve justice.

I'd like to believe those "Japs Keep Out" signs that my grandfather came home to are in our past. But when a classmate had the hijab ripped from her head by a screaming stranger, or yet another Latino friend shares a story of being called a wetback, I'm reminded that we've only come so far.

I barely speak any Japanese, but I do know the words Nidoto Nai Yoni. It's the name of a memorial commemorating the mass incarceration of Japanese families from Washington state's Bainbridge Island. It means "Let it not happen again."

With a Perspective, I'm Belia Saavedra.