This is it
by Zac Cunningham

 

Thirteen-year-old Robert Hart awoke as his mother called to him. It was a Sunday, so he had the unusual pleasure of sleeping until seven.

"Rob, breakfast is in ten minutes! Get ready for church! Everyone is up, but you!"

Rob reluctantly forced his body out of the warm bed. Sunlight glistened through frosty windows and the floor boards were ice cold on his bare feet.

He quickly pulled on a pair of gray socks, tan knickers, and a beige dress shirt. Rob then put on his brown shoes and grabbed his Bible and coat.

The daily morning sounds and smells drifted back to the room he shared with his two older brothers. The sizzle of ham and eggs called Rob down the hallway. The smell of baking biscuits drew him into the kitchen.

His father was sitting at the table, drinking coffee, and looking out the window. This was the time no one said a word. The radio was on, for a very good reason, war. The possibility had loomed for almost four years, now. The threat moved closer every day.

Since September 1, 1939 when Adolf Hitler and the German army invaded Poland and infested the rest of Europe, the days at the Hart farm began with the radio and ended with the radio. It was, in fact, the most important piece of furniture in the house. Rob's father had always said, "If the house ever catches on fire, the first thing I'll save is this radio."

Rob sat down next to his brothers Gib and Rick. Patsy, his younger sister, was helping their mother with the meal. Rob had two more brothers, who lived in town with their wives. He was the youngest male in the household.

The men all sat there listening intently to the radio announcer's voice as he gave the news.

"Good morning. This is Sunday, December 7, 1941, Here is the news."

"Diplomatic relations broke down late last night between the United States and Japan. Negotiations had been going on since late November..."

"It just keeps getting worse," Gib solemnly said, "Thanks, Mother."

She and Patsy were setting plates in front of the men. Then they sat down to eat also.

".....Secretary of State Cordell Hull said yesterday, that he did not expect the two Japanese peace envoys to return to the State Department for any more meetings. In other news, Russia announced this morning....."

The Hart family ate quietly that December 7th. It was unknown to them that this would be their last normal breakfast for five years.

The family finished their morning meal and all members, but Rick, completed preparations for Church. They left at about 9:45, leaving Rick at home. Although the Harts resided on a farm, the walk to Racine, Ohio was about five minutes. The First Baptist Church was ten minutes away.

Church began at 10:00 and lasted until Noon. Services were the same, there was no indication of what was going to occur. The choir sang, the pastor talked, then the congregation was dismissed.

The Harts began their walk back home. It was unusually warm that day, and the sun shone brightly as they walked along the street.

"My, that was a beautiful service. I liked Pastor Cooper's message this morning," Fannie, Rob's mother, stated.

"Church always puts me in a good mood," Earl said.

"Makes me hungry," Gib smiled.

"Amen," Rob agreed.

They all laughed. They turned on to their country road and the house came into sight.

"Uncle Harry and his family are coming for dinner, today. So are Grandma and Grandpa." Fannie announced.

"It'll be good to see Frank and Jenny," Patsy said.

"You haven't seen your cousins in a long while," Earl said.

"Are Ron and Babe coming over today?" Rob asked.

"They're probably home, right now." Fannie responded.

The family turned onto their driveway. Rick flew out the door and ran down the driveway to his father.

"What's wrong, son?" his father inquired.

"They just said on the radio....."

"Said what?" Gib asked.

"Pearl Harbor has just been bombed!" Rick choked.

"Dear God!" Fannie gasped!

"Where's Pearl Harbor?" Rob asked.

"Hawaii," Rick said.

"Who, son?" Earl questioned.

"The Japanese," Rick answered.

"This is it," Earl solemnly stated.

"We're at war, aren't we Daddy?" Patsy asked.

"Yes, Honey, we are."

The rest of the day was spent listening to the radio. Relatives arrived and were told the new. Neighbors telephoned with news of a new attack on some US possession in the Pacific. Rumors of German paratroopers on Oahu, rumors of a Japanese aircraft carrier off the coast of California, rumors that Los Angeles had been bombed.

The whole family had gathered together: mother, father, Babe, Rick, Ron, Gib, Rob, and Patsy. Uncle Harry's family and their grandparent's had left at about 5:00 PM, it was 7:00 PM now.

The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, went on the air that night to calm the nation. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt couldn't because he was meeting with advisors. Mrs. Roosevelt talked of her son, who was on a Navy destroyer. She reassured everyone that their loved ones would be taken care of.

When she finished, Rob's father looked around the room at his family, his sons, the people who would live on after he was gone.

"Babe, Rick, Ron," he began, "when are you going?"

"Tomorrow," they all answered.

They, of course, were talking about enlisting.

Rob went to bed that night at about 1:30. He wouldn't go to school, tomorrow. It had been called off. He lay in bed, awake, thinking. He knew life would not be easy with his brothers, friends, and neighbors gone. The family would have to survive day by day.