By Diane B. Tyson
On 10/10/10 I was 69 years old. On 10/10/11, I was 70 years old and on Dec. 7, 2011 it will be 70 years since the Empire of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech on Sunday, Dec. 8, 1941 described the previous day as “a date which will live in infamy.”
On Dec. 7, 1941 my mother, Irene Duffy, and her girlfriend, Jessie Kelly, were together on Staten Island, NY, that fateful day holding each other and holding me, age two months and Kate Kelly, age three months. These two best friends promised each other to be together on Dec. 7 no matter what they were doing for as long as they could, and they did. Later, if they could not get together because of job opportunities elsewhere or family commitments, they called each other. Year after year they faithfully followed-up on their promise to each other to keep in touch on Dec. 7.
When my mother died in April 1982, my Dad picked up the tradition for her and called Jessie for the upcoming Dec. 7, and when Dad died in 1983, I continued the tradition. I picked up the phone and called Jessie. It was a very tearful conversation that first Dec. 7, 1983 when I placed that call because of all the flooding memories. As the years past it became more difficult to locate Jessie because as she got older, she began to spend more and more time with each of her six children. Every year on Dec. 7, I never knew where I would find her, but wherever I did, she was always glad to spend a few minutes with me on the telephone. She made me feel closer to Mom and Dad as we reminisced the past and forecast the future.
Then in 1990 Jessie died. I hesitated at first to make the traditional Dec. 7 call to her daughter that year, but I did not want the 49-year tradition to end, so I picked up the phone once again on Dec. 7 and called Jessie’s youngest daughter, Roz, whom I had never met.
Over the years since, Roz and I called each other on that date which will live in infamy and exchanged family news. Roz and her sisters and brothers even came to San Diego on their boat one year to visit me and my family after we left Staten Island in 1999. So then I finally got to meet her and her grown up siblings whom I played with many years ago.
Three years ago I met Roz and Kate again in Florida with my sister, Irene, after we had all retired. We shared many memories of our parents and the many wondrous days we all spent together so long ago.
This past January, 2011 I had the opportunity for the first time in almost 70 years to visit the Memorial to the Battleship U.S.S. Arizona which was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor off the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This memorial is in honor of the memory of those brave men and women who died on that date of infamy. The silence of the thousands of visitors present was inspiring. To this day, we were told by the docent, oil continues to escape from the Arizona’s oil tanks far below the water after 70 years under the ocean.
Now, as Dec. 7, 2011 is quickly approaching I cannot believe I will be 70 years old and a more than 70-year friendship continues to unfold.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those lost on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, and a 70-year friendship between two best friends and their extended families continues to be alive and flourishing. Perhaps, after me, my daughter will continue this tradition, the tradition of two best friends, and truly, this will be “a date which will live in infamy.”