05/13/07 — Tora! Tora! Tora! hits SJAFB skies

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Tora! Tora! Tora! hits SJAFB skies

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 13, 2007 2:02 AM

Olivia Shaw was only 5 years old when Japanese fighters attacked Pearl Harbor.

But Saturday, as smoking replicas of Zeros, Kates and Vals circled the skies over the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base flight line, she closed her eyes and pictured the chaos that unfolded that day.

"You read about it all the time and you see the movies, but until you sit here and watch those planes flying around, you don't really realize that it was a day just like today," the 71-year-old Johnston County native said, tears rolling off her cheeks. "Nobody expected anything."

The Tora! Tora! Tora! Pearl Harbor Re-enactment team brought Dec. 7, 1941, to life for a few moments at the Wings Over Wayne air show and those who had been waiting in anticipation got everything they bargained for -- fire bursting on the ground, smoke everywhere.

Johnnie Shaw called the performance "the coolest thing" he has ever seen.

"Whoa," the 10-year-old Wayne County native said. "Did you see that? The planes looked like they were going to smash into each other."

His father, Kyle, laughed.

"Imagine hundreds of those things, boy," he said. "There was nowhere for our sailors to run."

Johnnie looked down.

"Did anybody get away?" he asked.

"Not many," Kyle replied somberly.

Team narrator Ken Crites said children like Johnnie are the reason he and other members of the Commemorative Air Force fly at shows all over the nation. They need the history lesson, he said.

"We want to be able to tell that story to all those young people out there," he said. "It's always a pleasure to see how they respond to the memory of those who gave their life."

More than 2,400 Americans died at Pearl Harbor.

Mary Beth Holeman said she prayed for them as the team finished its re-enactment, "God Bless America" blaring on the speakers.

"All those boys lost in the prime of their lives," the 36-year old said. "I can't even imagine -- don't really want to."

Her son, Blake, agreed.

"I'm glad I came out here and saw this," the 15-year-old said. "But that happening, it's just not right."

In the end, some cheered, others stared wide-eyed at each jet buzzing by and a few shed tears.

But all of them remembered.

"I'll never forget the men and women who gave their life then and those giving their lives now," Goldsboro native Tom Chapman said. "Once we start forgetting, the strength of America will fade. Let's just hope we don't forget."