Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 9, 2012

Pearl Harbor remembrances linger

— — Troop 82 Cub Scouts were recently given a chance to learn about “Mary’s Cradle,” a service located at Trinity Methodist Church on College Avenue here in Bluefield.

Mary’s Cradle is a ministry of the Bluefield Cooperative Parish, which consists of five churches: Bland Street United Methodist Church, Grace United Methodist Church, John Stewart United Methodist Church, Thompson Chapel United Methodist Church and Trinity. The goal of the program is to benefit all infants and children through service to their parents and/or guardians.

The service depends upon donated funds, maternity clothes and baby items to help expecting mothers, infants and toddlers. The service works closely with several local agencies including Right from the Start, Starting Points, Birth to Three, WIC and others.

The scouts brought items to donate to Mary’s Cradle, had an opportunity to see the facility, and learn about the service through a presentation by Frances Coffey, director of the local organization. The local Cub Scouts also wrote notes of appreciation and signed Christmas cards to be sent to service members of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a proclamation ordering all U.S. and state flags displayed at state facilities be lowered to half-staff the entire day of Friday, Dec. 7, in commemoration of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The governor emphasized that, “Throughout the years, many West Virginians have offered their selfless service to ensure our safety and freedom.” 

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Pearl Harbor Day cannot pass that I do not think about two events. My good friend Ajax Lilly was aboard the West Virginia when the ship was bombed by the Japanese in Pearl Harbor on that Sunday in 1941 beginning at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time. Lilly told the remarkable story of the encounter and I still recall the details of his narrow escape from death on that day.

I also remember my mother telling the story of how she learned of the sneak attack that took the lives of many innocent seamen on that day. She was at the Coopers Methodist Church when the news arrived. Someone in the community heard the news on the radio and came into the church to announce the attack.  The news was first announced at 1:07 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and major networks interrupted regular programming beginning at 2:30 p.m. to announce the attack.   

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On Dec. 9, 1941, two days after the infamous attack, America was in panic. Rumors of other assaults were rampant. New York was put on air raid alerts twice. Military planes at Mitchell Field took off looking for the enemy.

Of course we now know that these rumors were false, but nevertheless the fear was real.  Washington would not confirm or deny the details of the attack. The Japanese did claim that they had sunk both the battleships West Virginia and the Oklahoma. The White house hid most of the details from the American public.

The one thing that did happen is that Americans rallied en masse to support the war effort. Yet life went on. People continued to shop for Christmas unaware of the changes that were forthcoming. The Wall Street Journal forecast what no one else in journalism could foresee: “Textiles, wool and cotton goods will soon become scarce ... and leather will be in short supply.” 

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Our nation has gone through many changes in the 71 years since Pearl Harbor was attacked. Two days after 9/11, very few people could foresee the changes that have affected our everyday lives to this day.  We have lost a lot of freedom in the name of security, and justifiably so for the most part. We have also been relieved of a lot of fear and danger.

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Driving through the Four Seasons area I have noticed that the holiday decorations in many of our local towns are exceptionally nice this year. The old-fashioned street lamps in downtown Bluefield, Welch and Bramwell are beautifully adorned.

In other areas many homes feature some really nice holiday lights and scenes. One particular favorite of mine is a large locomotive complete with Santa at the throttle at a home in Pageton. 

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There you have it, a few comments on items of interest to the area. The first day of winter is nearing. Our days are growing shorter. The late fall sun is bright and the evening shadows are long. I do hope you are enjoying another blue sky day.

Wilson Butt, a resident of Bluefield, is a retired Department of Highways official.

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