As Old Bridge Township officials remember the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they said they have an obligation and responsibility to not only continue remembering the day, but also passing memories on to generations to come.
“We have to realize that many of the participants of 81 years ago are not here with us,” Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry said. “They would be at the ripe old age of above 95 if they were there closing in on 100. There are a very few people who have seen it firsthand and witnessed Pearl Harbor and are alive today.”
Old Bridge Township held a ceremony on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on Dec. 7.
Each year on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor survivors, veterans, and visitors from all over the world come together to honor and remember the 2,403 service members and civilians who were killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A further 1,178 people were injured in the attack, which permanently sank two U.S. Navy battleships – the USS Arizona and the USS Utah – and destroyed 188 aircraft, according to the National Park Service.
On Aug. 23, 1994, the United States Congress designated Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Every year, remembrance events are held at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, culminating in a commemoration ceremony on Dec. 7.
“We have an obligation as American citizens who enjoy the freedoms they died for that day and what the country was thrown into over the next few years with World War II,” Henry said. “We have an obligation and responsibility to stand here every Pearl Harbor Day as long as we can and also have an obligation to pass it on to the generation that is following us.”
Henry said it’s hard to think about the young lives lost, the lives that never happened.
“They had so much to live for and their lives were taken,” he said.
Assemblyman Robert Clifton (R-12) said he listens with great admiration to those who were living during that time from State Sen. Sam Thompson (R-12) as a young boy to his mother’s best friend of 80 years.
He shared the story that his mother’s best friend told his family when his mom passed away last year. They were two 7-year-old girls at the time who lived in Matawan on Dec. 7, 1941. They got dressed, came together and made the five-minute walk to the Matawan movie theater and paid a dime to watch a movie.
During the movie, his mother’s best friend remembers the movie stopping and the lights coming back on. The manager ran out and said, “We’ve been attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Movie (is) over, please everyone exit the building.”
“These are two 7-year-old girls, they didn’t know where Hawaii was, it could have been the Brooklyn Naval Yard for all they knew,” Clifton said.
The quick five-minute walk felt like a 20-mile hike, his mother’s friend recalled.
“They were so scared as they ran home,” Clifton said.
His mother and her friend listened to the events unfold on his mother’s grandparent’s radio.
“She would say “I can close my eyes 80 years later and know what your great grandmother’s wallpaper looked like, what we were all wearing, what the color of the couch was,” Clifton said. “It was that vivid of a memory, it’s just amazing.”
Clifton said it’s important as the mayor said to remember the day of when America essentially “sort of grew up” and innocence was no more.
“We became a superpower overnight,” he said.