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  • Valarie Jean Anderson

"It's Pearl Harbor Day"

Seventy-nine years ago today, my mother, a senior in high school, got on a jitney bus and headed to downtown Honolulu at eight in the morning, five minutes after the Japanese began their bombing run on Pearl Harbor. She lived on Kahala Street on the east side of Diamond Head, so she wasn’t aware of the attack. Four days later, she returned home.

Her brother, nineteen at the time, headed to Kahala Beach for a day of sailing and just missed his sister as she stepped onto the bus. He heard about the attack on the radio and raced to his Block Warden station. He spent his day helping his neighbors prepare for an invasion.

Their father, my grandfather, slept in, hoping for a quiet day when my mother headed to the bus stop. He spent 7 December directing operations of RCA-Communications from his home because his son took the family car. Later that day, he thought he was dying.

Takeo Fuchikami, a Japanese-American messenger boy for RCA, hopped on his Indian Scout motorbike with a bag full of messages to deliver even though a hail of bombardments rained down on the streets of Honolulu. Later that day, his fellow Americans shot at him because of his heritage.

Bernard Otto Kuehn, a German who spied for the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, raced to his church to retrieve his son, who was attending Sunday school when my mother headed downtown. You can read his story in my book, Money Eater; Bernard Otto Kuehn, available on Amazon.

Seventy-nine years ago today, when evil engulfed Europe and China, it swept into America. A pandemic of war rocked the world that would take seventy to eighty-five million people, three percent of the world’s population. Imagine over two hundred million dying today.

No one involved had the luxury of instant communication to reach out for comfort and news. Each looked fear in the face. Each had to sort through rumors and panic while they did their best to survive. Each saw and did things that they wished they could forget, and there was no vaccine on the horizon. Today was a day in history that exposed the true grit of men and women. It was a day when boys became men within minutes and girls bridged a cultural divide in one leap so they could be the glue that kept our country running.

As terrible as our times are now, my mother, her brother, my grandfather, Takeo Fuchikami, soldiers, and sailors shaped a history that helped beat the enemy. Our battle against the current evil pales by comparison, but it is a storm we must weather nonetheless. Gather strength from our forefathers who did what needed to be done to survive and thrive.

Every year on this day, my mother would say, “It’s Pearl Harbor Day.” She did not forget, even though images that she did not want to remember haunted her eyes. Now I say to you, “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Step into our ancestor’s footfalls and do what needs to be done to win the war that currently engulfs our world. Give thanks to the frontline heroes past and present. Find courage in their work and memory, and let’s not forget. We owe them for our lives and our freedoms.

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