Mary Peters: 'Seeing Her Again Brought Much Joy to Me – And Plenty of Tears'
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Mary Peters on her reunion with Reiko Nagumo.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the interviewee. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
PBS: Reiko describes a moment from your childhood when you defied your parents by remaining her friend despite the hostility toward Japanese families living in the U.S. She mentions how courageous it was for you to do this. Can you recall how you felt at the time and why you decided to take a stance that was different from many of your peers and your own family?
Mary Peters: I was introduced to racial prejudice at an early age, but knew intuitively deep within myself that just because I was told something, didn’t make it so. Reiko calls it courageous, but I have to believe that for me it has been a gift.
"I was introduced to racial prejudice at an early age, but knew intuitively deep within myself that just because I was told something, didn’t make it so."
PBS: How did you feel when you discovered Reiko was searching for you? Were you surprised that you left such a lasting impact on her?
Mary: I received a call from my cousin in California to tell me that an individual from England was interested in contacting me on behalf of someone from my elementary school days. I said immediately, “It has to be Reiko." I recalled being friends with Reiko and feeling badly when she was removed from Los Feliz Elementary School and sent to a camp, but I didn’t recall many details. I had thought of her fondly many times over the years, but had no idea of her reason to reunite.
PBS: What were you feeling in the days leading up to meeting Reiko?
Mary: I was filled with excitement just thinking about meeting Reiko again. Here we were from seven-year-old children in a small first grade class to our reunion at age 83 on a worldwide TV series.
Seeing her again brought much joy to me – and plenty of tears.
PBS: Now that you’ve reunited, what’s next for you and Reiko?
Mary: I would like to “meet again" with Reiko when she shares her internment experience with the next group of fifth graders in her area and let them see firsthand the effects of our friendship.
"Reiko is an inspiring example of persistence, proven to have met many challenges during her life."
Reiko is an inspiring example of persistence, proven to have met many challenges during her life. Knowing her was awesome in 1941 and being re-introduced in 2017 has been indescribable.
Imagine – there is no limit to what just this one small act – a touch on another’s hand - has created!
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