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Pearl Harbor in a Three Step Process: Fighting, Killing, Dying
7 year-old Meredith Johns woke with a start. There was another loud BOOM and she clutched her teddy bear for comfort, and lay back down on her white bed. But with another loud BOOM, Meredith got out of bed. Terrified, she crept into the hall. But she had only taken a few steps when there was another Boom! Meredith shrieked, and ran to her mother, who was standing in the next room, looking terrified.
With other bombs, 3 year-old Christopher, Meredith’s brother, ran over to them. Through the door, they all saw planes flying within between fifty and one hundred feet of the water, dropping three self-propelled cigar-shaped missiles in a line between a ship and the seaward end of Ford Island. One of the missiles hit two ships, and fire was opened.
Meredith, Christopher, and there mother crept out the house, Christopher’s white blond-hair standing on end, his baby blue eyes a wide with terror, to see one of the planes shoot down over Pearl Harbor, but came down in flames, only a short distance away from where the Johns family was standing.
“The Japanese,” whispered Meredith’s mother.
Meredith saw a red Sun plainly shown on the side of the plane.
“Where’s Thomas?” Christopher suddenly cried, realizing that the oldest brother was missing, “where is he?”
“On the USS Arizona,” said Meredith’s mother, “he’s fighting.”
“NO!” Meredith cried. She started to run down the bank, “Thomas, come back!”
Christopher followed Meredith, but a rough hand pushed them aside. It was a fighter with weapons. He looked deadly.
Christopher gaped at him, “This is war?” he asked Meredith.
Their mother pulled them back, to their house, and gently stroked Meredith’s long brown hair. They stood watching as planes were attacking with machine-gun fire and bombs.
Planes kept coming for some time. Meredith tried to count, but couldn’t. Four battleships were bombed, and burst into fire, and another turned over. Please don’t let one of them be the USS Arizona, Meredith prayed. Her dozens of light freckles were glistening with sweat, and her hands were all clammy because she had been gripping them together tightly around her teddy bear.
Two bombs fell on a battleship, and that ship burst into flames.
A bomb then dropped at the forward part of a ship, and flames went up.
It was war like Meredith had never seen it. There were shouts and screams. There were bombs and explosions, and fire was blazing everywhere.
A bomb suddenly went off very near where the Johns family was standing, and the fumes reached them. Christopher coughed and gagged, and fell to the ground. Meredith bent down by her little brother. She was coughing, too. “Christopher!” she choked, “CHRISTOPHER!” Christopher gagged again, and moved no more.
Meredith’s mother pulled her back away from the battle and into their house. “Christopher, come back!” shouted Meredith, tears streaking down her face, straining against her mother’s surprisingly strong arms. After struggling, Meredith grew limp, and fainted.
Meredith woke much later. She opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was until she felt her teddy bear. Meredith was in her bed.
The house was oddly still. Too still. Unusually still. “Mother?” Meredith called. She looked at the clock. It was 9:15 A.M. It was morning. Thomas was supposed to run into Meredith’s room, pick her up, swing her around, and give her a piggy-pack down to the kitchen. But there was no Thomas.
Meredith got out of bed and crept to the kitchen. Her mother was sitting by the table, weeping.
“Mama,” whispered Meredith, tentatively, “Mama, where’s Thomas?”
Meredith’s mother wept harder, and showed Meredith a color photograph of a ship going up in fire. The caption read, “The Only Color Photograph of the Explosion of the USS Arizona.” “Hang on,” said Meredith, “Explosion. USS Arizona. Was that the ship Thomas was on?”
The answer was in Meredith’s mother’s eyes. “The ship sunk,” she said reaching out to Meredith, “and he was thrown into the ocean and-”
“No,” cried Meredith, jumping away from her mother, “NO! T-Thomas is not
d-dead! He’s n-not! He c-can’t be! First Christopher, then T-Thomas!” Meredith sank to the floor, sobbing her heart out. Through her tears, she saw another picture. It was of a man signing a piece of paper while being watched by other men. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt Declares War on Japan!” said the headline.
Oh great, Meredith thought, as her mother knelt by her and put her arms around her, another life threatening situation. First my father died of polio, then Christopher died of a bomb, and now Thomas has drowned in the ocean.
How many more families would be ripped apart? Meredith wondered. How many more people will die?
It was all America’s fault, thought Meredith, that the Johns family is no longer the Johns family. It’s just me and my mom, but we will hold our heads high and walk hand in hand down this winding path to the future we know nothing of.