SILOAM SPRINGS The sound of feet running down the hall roused Jackie Siering from her sleep.
“Jackie, Jackie, get your father up. Over the radio they said the Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor,” the little girl, Joyce Blaty, shouted as she ran.
Looking out the windows of their home, Siering, who was 8 that year, and her parents could see plumes of black smoke rising up from the naval base in the valley below them. It was Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. As Siering watched her father run out of the home and head into the base, she could see the USS Arizona, anchored at the foot of the mountains at Pearl Harbor.
“It was terrible. There was so much smoke because they had bombed the Arizona. There was black smoke everywhere and then the airplanes started,” said Siering, who now lives inSiloam Springs.
As Siering and her mother ran back into their home, they could hear Japanese airplanes flying over their home, heading for Schofield Barracks, the largest Army post in Hawaii. Siering’s family home stood between Schofield Barracks and Pearl Harbor.
As bombs continued to drop around them, Siering and her mother ran to a neighbor’s house where they could hide in a cellar and would, hopefully, be better protected from the Japanese planes, bombs and gunfire.
As the mother and daughter ran across a field, abomb dropped from an airplane, throwing rocks, splinters and other debris into the air, a piece of which lodged in Siering’s waist. Despite the painful wound, she continued to run.
After arriving in the neighbor’s cellar, “I remember asking my mother if I could pray and she said, ‘Yes, because God listens to all children’s prayers,’” Siering said.“I just kept saying, ‘Our father, our father’ because I could not get anything more out.”
As she huddled in the cellar, along with other children and their mothers who sought shelter there, Siering could feel the house shake with every bomb and could hear the buzzing of the airplanes overhead along with the ratatat-tat of bullets.
“It was terrible, just terrible,” Siering said.
After the sun set, the families - minus all the fathers who were on the military bases prepared for war - kept watch. Rumor had it that Japanese pilots were parachuting onto the island to kill survivors, Siering said.
“That night, the adults drew straws and my mother drew the shortest one -which means she was supposed to kill all of the children if the Japs found us,” Siering said, noting quietly that the trauma of drawing straws led her mother, Dorothy S. Woronick, into a mental breakdown when the attack of Pearl Harbor was over.
On the morning of Dec. 8, the families ventured out of the cellar. Outside, they sawhomes littered with bullet holes while dry laundry fl uttered on clothes lines. Black smoke continued to rise from Pearl Harbor.
“We could see everything going on from where we were and it was just awful. The service people suffered more than we did but we were so frightened,” Siering said.
One of the women in the cellar beside Siering was notified that her husband had been aboard the Arizona when the bombing commenced and he would not be coming home, Siering said. When the Arizona sank, 1,177 crew members died.
A month after the attack, Siering, her mother, and her father, Anthony P. Woronick, a chief in the Navy, returned to the U.S. Once the shrapnel was removed from Siering’s waist, her mother kept it. Siering still has the shardlocked away, along with many memories of that tragic sunny Sunday in 1941.
For several years, Gary Wellesley, a state officer with the Arkansas Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, has quietly listened to Pearl Harbor and World War II veterans tell their stories.
“Tom Brokaw got it right. That is the greatest generation. That generation got everything from the Dust Bowl to the Great Depression and rationing and fighting a war,” Wellesley said.
“To hear the stories and the things they went through, it’s amazing. They really came together and got it right,” Wellesley said.
News, Pages 9 on 12/09/2009
Print Headline: Siloam woman recalls ‘Day of Infamy’