69 Years from Infamy

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As a gentle breeze binds the scent of oil and tropical air, Paul Rom rises from his wheelchair and grabs hold of the rail. The sky and water nearly match in brilliant blue and just feet a way an American flag whips atop the mast of ship still watching over the harbor. With a little help Paul gazes just to his left, the front gun turret rusted, but visible above the water and the smells from 'the tears of the Arizona' drift up from below. For Paul, a native of the Bronx, this is his first and likely last trip back to Pearl Harbor since his service so many years ago and he has come at a time many in this dying club will say their final goodbye's.

They all have stories. From swimming through oil infested waters ablaze from explosions, to serving on other parts of the island...watching in horror as the Japanese surprise attack 69 years ago killed more than 2,400 of their friends and colleagues, including children and other civilians. For so many the years have gone by so fast and you can literally see the memories on their faces as they go into a near trance while looking over the site. All around the island and around this harbor bombs fell and gunfire ripped through everything in site. Two hours and two waves of Japanese planes later, 188 U.S. aircraft and 21 ships were either destroyed, or severely damaged and we had been brutally thrust into the war in the Pacific.

We have come here for the 69th commemoration at Pearl Harbor for two reasons...the obvious is the memorial that will be attended by about 100 survivors, but also to witness the dedication of a brand new facility. You see four years ago when we came for the 65th anniversary, our crew noticed the visitors center had seen better days and that's putting it lightly. Big chunks of concrete had fallen from numerous areas and parts of the center were literally sinking back into Pearl Harbor. A fund had been established and every effort was being made to raise 50-million dollars to replace a museum and site that had seen much better days. We pitched the story idea and planned a return....

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