A Pearl Harbor survivor spent decades trying to forget it.
He walked slowly, an entourage of help ensuring he didn’t slip. People in the bar clapped as he moved past. Then Lauren Bruner gave up his cane and settled at a table against the wall where his picture had been hanging for years.
Dwight Lockwood, reed-thin in shorts and flip-flops, darted behind the bar and quickly popped the cap off a Kona Longboard beer. “It’s his favorite,” he said. The drink was on the house, of course.
Bruner took a swig. Around him, dozens of people waited to shake his hand, share a story or take a picture. The bar was a dive, barely more than the width of a long hallway. He looked around from the stool — his stool — and the decades began to melt away.
No longer was he 96, with a broken heart and a busted back. He was back in Smith’s Union Bar, and it was in the exact same place it had been when he was stationed at Pearl Harbor all those years ago. In his mind, he was 21 again — strong from swabbing decks and climbing steep ladders aboard the battleship Arizona.
Then came Dec. 7, 1941 — the day of America’s first 9/11, the day the U.S. got drawn into World War II in a hail of fire and fury. The day more than 2,400 men and women died in a surprise attack from a country America wasn’t even at war with. The day Bruner has spent most of his life not talking about.
That changed a few years ago, when he met Ed McGrath.
It has been a week of memories all over this tropical Navy town, where survivors are commemorating the day the Imperial Japanese Navy, seeking to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet out of Southeast Asia, aimed 353 bombers, fighter planes and torpedo planes in a preemptive strike at eight U.S. Navy battleships berthed at Pearl Harbor, including the Arizona, which exploded and sank.
The Arizona, which is the centerpiece of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, will be the site of a ceremony Wednesday honoring the 1,177 sailors and Marines who were killed on the battleship during the Sunday morning assault.
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