On March 20, Rob Stewart moderated a Q&A for the California Museum’s event We Meet Again, which featured a discussion between Reiko Nagumo and Mary Frances Peters, two women at the heart of the premiere episode of We’ll Meet Again, which aired on KVIE in January.
Mary Frances Peters doesn’t even remember the loving, gentle gesture that would dramatically impact the rest of someone’s life. It was September of 1945 when a frightened little girl named Reiko Nagumo returned to school in Los Angeles. Mary Frances and Reiko had not seen each other since kindergarten – their friendship ripped apart after the bombing of Pearl Harbor 1941. Reiko was one of the 110,000 Japanese Americans in the United States forced into internment camps during World War II. The war ended in August of 1945, but the mistreatment of Japanese Americans did not.
Reiko was scared to death when she walked back into school. She was shunned and mistreated by everyone, except her friend, Mary Frances, who reached out her hand and held it until Reiko felt safe and loved.
Soon after, Mary Frances and her family moved away. But she left Reiko with a mission, a life’s work sparked from the reach of a hand to someone in need. The friends would lose touch and not speak for 73 years.
Reiko and Mary Frances sat down with me at the California Museum for an intimate conversation and screening of the program that brought them together. We watched their emotional reunion captured and shared by the PBS We’ll Meet Again with Ann Curry. For the past 20 years, Reiko has been on a mission to find her long lost friend. It would take Ann Curry and her team of producers to find and reunite the pair. As cameras rolled, their beautiful story unfolded, showing what love, not hate, can do. Reiko is a docent at the California Museum, teaching school children from across California the importance of unconditional love for our fellow human beings. The Museum showcases the similarities all human beings have through their Unity Exhibit – a “must do” California treasure.
The evening was a beautiful example of how moments matter. How the “little” things in life can profoundly impact the future of thousands of other people. Mary Frances’ powerful act of friendship has echoed through the decades as Reiko has shared the story of her kindness. How sweet to sit between so much love and look out at the ripple effects looking right back at them, of just what love can do.