Pearl Harbor remembered

KEYPORT — Muriel Williams lived just four blocks away from Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, the morning 353 Japanese planes flew in from five different directions, sinking 21 ships, taking 2,403 lives and starting America’s involvement in World War II. She remembers the incoming planes and the days after the event spent waiting for news, waiting to hear if loved ones were all right.

“I call myself a survivor even though I wasn’t in the service,” she said.

But Williams, a longtime Poulsbo resident, also remembers the Honda Knot, which nearly six years later brought home one of the first contingents of fallen soldiers to the states. The memorial service held was eerily silent, something that for Williams has been as unforgettable as Pearl Harbor itself.

“We were so quiet. We were saying goodbye to these boys, most of them, and over in San Francisco there’s a great number of people waiting for them to come home,” she said. “I remember Pearl Harbor, but I remember Oct. 1, 1947, too.”

Though one is lesser known than the other, both remind her of the price of freedom, and it was a time of remembrance not just for Williams, but for hundreds Friday as service members, civilians and more than a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors gathered to commemorate a day which has lived in infamy for 66 years.

The presentation was heartfelt as a generation of bravery and perseverance was honored.

“It’s important that we take pause from our busy lives and formally honor this date,” said Capt. Jonathan Dowell, commander of Naval Underwater Warfare Center Division Keyport and emcee for the 14th annual event in Keyport. He spoke of the attacks on both Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center in 2001, events which affected the life of every American, no matter their age.

“You never forget where you were or what you were doing,” he said.

The ceremony also included a presentation by Capt. Michael Mathews, and several of the attending survivors — of whom there were originally 78,000 — shared their memories about the day of the attack to a nearly-packed auditorium.

Poulsbo resident Jorgen Tweiten said he was asleep on the USS Rigel when the attack began, and remembers the moment he saw, through a porthole, four planes flying in overhead.

“I didn’t have any fear until I saw blood,” he said. “As I ran back to the radio station where I was stationed I almost froze, but I didn’t.”

Tweiten said he hasn’t witnessed a day like that one since.

“It was just a sad day. I can’t remember any other day as sad as that day,” he said.

Mathews spoke of the shocking pain and horrific losses felt at Pearl Harbor, a terror that chilled the country to its bone, but did not keep it from rising again.

“The most important mistake the enemy made that day is they truly underestimated the American people,” he said. “We are truly grateful for the sacrifices and dedication of this generation of Americans.”

And though the number of attending survivors continues to decrease, as some have passed away while others can no longer make the trip, it was made clear their sacrifices will continue to be remembered.

“Let us never forget their strength, heart, courage, dedication, perseverance and devotion,” Dowell said.

He called for the commemoration of not just the fallen at Pearl Harbor that day, but of all those serving in the military, and those close to them, generations of families paying the price for the freedom of a county.

And for Williams, the price will not soon be forgotten.

“Memories fade, Pearl Harbor one doesn’t forget,” she said.

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