The 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor was commemorated on Dec. 7, 2001 at the Oyster Bay Marina. Veterans of Foreign Wars Oyster Bay Memorial Post 8033, Pearl Harbor Survivors and the Plainview Old Bethpage Music in Motion band. They were joined by veterans groups and elected officials in the well-attended ceremony. With the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in NYC, the day had special meaning since more people died there then at Pearl Harbor.
"It's a sad day," said Andrew Delaney, a WWII veteran, who flew with the Air Force.
"Some people don't remember Pearl Harbor, but it's all pushed back into our consciousness with the fall of the two World Trade towers," said Kathleen Terrono of Massapequa. She was waiting for her husband to pick her up. She held the red rose he gave her to toss into the sea.
She was sitting in a patio chair and has a cane, so she still held the flower after the ceremony was over. The Terronos have four children, three boys and a girl: the oldest, Andrew, whom they call Drew, is a doctor; a nurse, a CPA and a son with a brokerage firm. He was not in the WTC tragedy, she said.
Mrs. Terrono said the effect of the recent tragedy was felt more locally then the Pearl Harbor event because the WWII victims were dispersed all over the United States. "But, here we are 60 years later and still remembering it," she said.
"I can't blame the kids for not remembering, it's a long time ago," said Mr. Delaney, an East Norwich resident.
"Here's my ride," said Mrs. Terrono. When her husband drove up in his car to pick her up, he shared his story of survival at Pearl Harbor. He was on the USS Tennessee. "We were inshore during the attack. The USS West Virginia took all the torpedos. We were usually on the outboard side but we were heading to the states for repair work. Our admiral was transferred out so we got the inland berth. It would have been the opposite otherwise," he said. "Just like one person who escaped from the WTC and got on a plane and the plane came down," he said.
Mr. Terrono is not one to look on the grey side of life. "It's a wonderful day. In fact any day you wake up in the morning is a beautiful day," he said.
Another veteran, 84 years old, was looking for his friends at the end of the ceremony. The Syosset resident, who preferred not to be named, said he never went overseas. "I was 'lucky Pierre' all the way. Most amazingly, my wife's mother went to a tea reader who said her son-in-law would go in the service and never go into action." That was exactly what happened, he said. His good luck started when an allergic reaction to a vaccination made him miss being sent overseas with his unit.
Flat feet kept him from marching in an Infantry unit. He was finally sent to a camp where and then he was assigned to Camp Hood, Texas where he became a training officer.
"Every time a group went out we'd pack our bags and I'd kiss my wife goodbye (I had her in town with me) and at the last minute they pulled me out."
During 1944 and 45, he was retraining men from Europe to go to the Pacific. "We were getting into rockets and it was a different kind of war. They were shipped out and I didn't go with them. Finally the war was over and they sent me to Camp McCoy Wisconsin for 1 -1/2 years to decommission soldiers. We did 50 to 60,000 a month, until the end of 1945.
"One of the fellows who shipped out of Fort Bragg who I met in Texas told me how lucky I was not to go. The artillary outfit he went with was hit by one of the last super bombs Hitler used. He got a Purple Heart there," said the Syosset resident.
The stories reminded Mr. Delaney of his 51 missions in the air force. He remembered as he headed out on that last mission a crew of young men asked him what it was like. They were flying over an oil depot in Munich and he saw their plane hit. "It broke in half, by the wings. I remember those kids, all young, 18, 19 and 20, such good-looking American kids. I remember them like it was yesterday," he said.
He talked about having to keep flying in formation even though they could see bullets flying in their direction. It took a lot of raw courage to keep on course.
"We carried pistols. Sometimes when we were flying in tight formation the fighter planes would come in close to us. I shot at a few of them. I never knew if I hit anything, but it made me feel better," he said.
Each and every veteran carries stories of war inside of them. Stories that tell of the sacrifice of the few for the many, to keep this country's way of life vitally alive.