81 years after Pearl Harbor attack, thousands remember the ‘everlasting legacy’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands gathered Wednesday to mark another year since the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor and honor all those who sacrificed their lives.
At the same time, many celebrated the future that came after — when once bitter enemies became loyal friends and allies.
Eighty-one years ago Wednesday, Japanese warplanes started a historic assault on Pearl Harbor that would leave 2,403 Americans dead and throw the United States into war.
Thousands lined Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki Wednesday evening to honor and commemorate those who died -- and survived.
One of the survivors is Jack Holder, who was a 19 year-old Navy sailor on Ford Island when the attack began.
“I’ve been asked so many times what my thoughts were at that time. And I can tell you there was a bunch of them. Anger, surprise, fear,” Holder told a commemoration ceremony on Kuroda Field at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki.
“A lot of us said a few prayers. I did,” he said. “I said, ‘Please God, don’t let me die in this ditch.’”
Holder still remembers what happened in 1941 as if it was yesterday.
“You cannot believe the horror that went through what I’ve seen,” he said. “I’ve seen the Arizona sinking, listing at 45 degrees. And Nevada, West Virginia, Tennessee, California,” listing the names of other Navy vessels that sank or were damaged.
Despite their complicated history, the United States and Japan became allies upon signing the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
With that in mind, Pacific Historic Parks said the theme for the 81st Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is “Everlasting Legacy.”
Organizers said the focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the “Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought up peace through reconciliation.”
There are fewer Pearl Harbor survivors remaining as the years go by. There are even fewer survivors from the USS Arizona.
“I am one of two remaining survivors from the USS Arizona. My remaining shipmate, Ken Potts, lives in Provo, Utah,”,” Lou Conter told those gathered at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center during the morning commemoration of the attack.
Conter didn’t make the trip, but appeared via a video link.
“I had hoped to be with you in Honolulu for this eighty-first commemoration, but my 101 year-old legs are not what they used to be,” he said.
Students from Aragon High School in San Mateo, Calif., made the trip to take part for the first time in the parade commemorating the anniversary of the attack.
“I know these students are all familiar with the event, but to experience and be able to see these veterans live is such an eye-opening experience,” said the school’s orchestra and choir director John Chen.
Nearly 2,000 marchers, 60 vehicles, 6 floats and 10 bands took part in the parade, which started at Fort DeRussy and ended at Kapiolani Park.
And Jack Holder was the parade’s grand marshal, hailed as a hero and surrounded by admirers who wanted a picture and to shake his hand.
How does it make him feel?
“Very proud. Surprised, and very proud,” he said.
“I give all these presentations to the younger folks, you know?” And when I see that they enjoy it, it’s a pleasure to me. Same thing here.”
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