The Day His Family Disappeared | Teen Ink

The Day His Family Disappeared

November 12, 2019
By tenniscourt001 GOLD, Dousman, Wisconsin
tenniscourt001 GOLD, Dousman, Wisconsin
10 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The Day His Family Disappeared

The TV blared in the house, showing highlights of news segments on every channel. It was everywhere. Every newspaper, radio station, and TV channel in the country was overwhelmingly overtaken with visions of horror and devastating words that ripped people’s hearts out of their chests. Emily’s stomach swarmed with butterflies every second of the day, wondering if her son was still alive. She had not heard his name on the news yet, but she had not heard from him either. Confusion filled her mind and the anticipation overtook every thought that burst inside her. Second by second, the day passed. And after about the hundredth time looking out the window for any sign of her son, she saw the mail carrier pull up. The door blasted open and she ran outside. Tripping and stumbling down every step in her front yard she approached the mailman. Hesitantly, she grabbed the envelopes piled in his hands. She saw one letter addressed to her from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Nervously wondering what would be inside, she slowly tore the seal. Inside was this letter...



Dear Mom,

Yesterday was most definitely the worst day of my life. I am okay physically, but mentally, I will never recover. I witnessed horror and complete devastation to our country. I cannot even begin to express how awful this experience was for me and the thousands of others who accompanied me on the base. I witnessed terrible destruction and devastation to our military and country as a whole. Meanwhile, I also experienced the death of my fellow shipmates, soldiers, and civilians. My friends. My family. It is truly something that changed me forever.

  It all began at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Kermit A. Tyler, a friend of mine, was up in the tower when he got a reading on his radar. He picked up a fleet of planes coming in. Earlier he had heard the Hawaiian music of the system, signaling that US planes were nearing. He assumed the planes whose readings he was picking up were USS B-17 planes coming from California. But he was wrong. 

At 8:00 a.m. the first missiles started to soar from the sky.  “AIR RAID PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NOT A DRILL!” echoed over the PA system. When I heard this, I was lying in bed in my cabin with Alec. We shot up. I felt and heard an explosion rumble from outside. It was loud. Louder than an immense blast of thunder. The ground shook beneath me and glass shattered, sending particles into the room. We both shot out of bed and scrambled outside. Shortly after, at 8:10 a.m., the first bomb hit. Before us was the USS Arizona. The bomb had struck through the deck and traveled into her forward ammunition magazine. I have now come to understand the missile was 1,000 pounds. The ship exploded and sank to the ocean floor, trapping 1,000 men inside. Inside were my greatest friends: William, Robert, James, John, and Miller. I stood outside my cabin in shock, tears forming in my eyes. I watched as the ship slowly slipped under the blackening water with my family trapped inside. I watched until the last inch was swallowed in the waves, followed by a big bubble. My heart throbbed in pain knowing that I would never be able to see my friends again. Never be able to say goodbye. My heart hurt hearing thoughts assemble in my head: Little Janie will never be able to see William again. She will never be able to hug her big brother goodbye. Instantly tears started rushing like a rapid river down my face, and soon anger filled my eyes. Who did this? Who took my family from me and from their families back home? It was horror. Horror flashing through my innocent eyes. 

Looking into the water, I saw flames fiercely flourishing in the harbor. I saw bloody waters washing against the shoreline. I saw body parts floating to the surface. Parts of my friends. Friends who have helped me get used to life a part of the Navy. Friends I have shared many memories with. Friends that have taught me things I will never forget. Friends who have changed my life forever. Friends who have become my family. The blue ocean waves were overtaken by burning oil, cherry red blood, and injured bodies swimming for their lives. The thirty seconds I stood outside my cabin felt like years as I watched something that ripped my heart into pieces. A pit formed in my stomach as my heart was torn apart. It was a feeling worse than when I held dad’s body in my arms after cancer swarmed away the brightness he brought into our lives away. And I thought that would be the worst thing I’d ever have to undergo. Needless to say, it was the most horrific thing I not only had to witness, but experience. A vision of pure horror flashed through my eyes, a vision that plays in my mind on repeat. And this was just the start.

“Oh my god.” Alec exclaimed as his eyes focused on the picture in front of us. “We need to go!” he yelled at me, hitting my arm and waking me from a trance. My feet started to race against the ground while my eyes remained in place, on my friends burning to their death in the waters that were so beautiful and calm the night before. The gleaming, glistening, glittering blue waters were no longer a sight that puts one in awe. Instead, the water was black and red, filled with limbs of the ones I loved and the burning souls of my family. I remembered Saturday night going into town to the movies with William. It was the last memory I would ever make with him. The last time I would hear his voice, his laugh, see him, and say goodbye… or goodnight as it was. Alec and I ran to the shoreline and grasped onto as many hands as we could. We pulled people, so damaged that we could not make out their identities, from the sizzling water. Nurses rushed back and forth from the shoreline taking hundreds into the hospital. We helped pick up the bodies and thrust them onto the wheeling beds. To our left, bombs soared from the sky into the water, crashing into the Pacific Fleet. I was afraid, being so close. I felt water splash onto me, and my skin burned-- scorched by flames. Every bomb strike Alec and I would fall to the ground and curl up behind the curb. Seconds later, we would shoot up and grab as many people out of the water as we could. 

“Help me!” I heard escape from one of the bodies floating in the bloody water before he slipped under the surface, never to be seen again. Alec and I fought through the physical and mental pain to save our friends, as many as we could. We saw people running from the cabins to the shoreline to save people and others running inland to save themselves. I do not blame any of them, and I am not mad they made this decision, in fact I know that you would have told me to do just that, but I felt it was my duty to help. I joined the Navy to serve our country. And along the way I became a part of another family. I was going to fight for our country, save our country, save my family. 

My ears filled with blasts of sounds escaping from airplane engines rumbling in the sky, burning flames sizzling in the water, screaming bodies, yelling people on land, and bombs exploding in the water. Next came the USS Oklahoma. Torpedos struck the ship resulting in her rolling over and sinking on her side. Inside, 400 of my friends were trapped. My anger began to grow as did my fear and sadness. By then, an hour had passed. The next fleet of Japanese planes came in, 167 of them. They came in groups of twos and threes. Bombs continued to strike the base and our aircraft. Looking into the sky, I saw some of our planes shoot down some of Japan’s planes. I trembled in pain, but I fought to help save my friends from the burning waters.

By the time the attack was over, every ship in the Pacific Fleet had sustained significant damage. Nearly 20 of our ships were destroyed, including the 8 battleships, and 300 planes. I have trained on nearly all of them and have memories aboard each one. About 2,403 Americans died, civilians included. In addition, 1,178 were wounded. 

As for me, my flesh was burned off my body. The nurses rushed me in and started working on me. I was dozing in and out of consciousness, but I knew that I had saved the lives of at least some of my friends. As many as I could. Some say I am a hero. But I am not. I am a friend, a sailor that did his duty.

Yesterday was a day I will never forget. A day that changed me. And the end of lives of the people who will always have a place in my heart and impact on my life. I will never forget December 7, 1941. And today, December 8, 1941, the day the US entered World War II. 

Love, Brian

Slowly, swiftly, smoothly she closed the letter. The envelope rested graciously in the palms of her hands as she looked up to the sky, thanking God for sparing her son’s life, but praying for those lost and wondering why something so horrific had to happen. Tears streamed down her face, dripping one by one from the sockets in her eyes. Her vision became blurred with both tears of happiness and sadness. In addition, feelings of relief filled her heart, but also tore it into pieces. The previous moments, that had just affected everyone in the United States with pure horror, broke her heart. But the feeling that her son was still alive was a miracle, one that she would forever be grateful for. 

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