A group of local men and women are on a mission to make sure no one ever forgets what happened Dec. 7, 1941.
In that spirit, eight of the region’s remaining Pearl Harbor survivors took to Riverfront Park on Friday to commemorate those lost when the Japanese attacked the Hawaii naval base 71 years ago.
Through the bitter cold rain, the eight arrived at the Howard Street Bridge and ceremoniously tossed Hawaiian leis into the river below.
Students at Shadle Park High School created and donated the leis for the ceremony, and several came to the bridge to watch.
Carol Edgemon Hipperson, one of the organizers of the event, said one of the themes of the day was “bridging the gap” between the generations to show “mutual respect and admiration.”
The survivors “accept it as their responsibility to pass on their memories to the younger generation,” she said.
During a lunch at the Harvard Park senior living center, survivor Sid Kennedy told the story of his close call in the middle of the attack.
“I’m just glad I was inside a concrete building,” the 20-year Navy veteran said, adding that he had been in the sick bay following an operation on both his big toes.
He said he saw a group of people outside and told them to seek cover. They came inside, he closed the door behind them, and bullets from a Japanese plane immediately hit the other side of the door.
Kennedy said being a part of the local Pearl Harbor survivors group gives him a change to help educate the community about what he went through that day.
It was also through the group he reunited with Charlie Boyer, a friend of his from boot camp. After so many years, he didn’t immediately recognize him.
“I hadn’t seen him for 50 years,” Kennedy said. “He’d changed.”
The two have been inseparable ever since, he said, and had lunch together Friday.
Hipperson said the group of Pearl Harbor survivors in the region used to have more than 100 members. Now there are only nine left, and the youngest is 89 years old. But they still talk to school and military groups, often relating the experiences of Pearl Harbor to those of Sept. 11.
“I know that when 9/11 hit, some of them even had flashbacks because it was so similar to them,” Hipperson said.
She said many of them refuse to call themselves heroes.
Kennedy wrote a book about Pearl Harbor, and all the survivors were consultants for Hipperson’s book, which tells Ray Daves’ eyewitness account of the attack.
For her, organizing the Pearl Harbor anniversary events is a way to show her gratitude.
“When you listen to each one of them tell where they were that day, it’s really a miracle that any of them are here,” she said.