Big Isle schools participate in Dec. 7 reading program


Thousands gather at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center every Dec. 7 to pay tribute to the service members and civilians who lost their lives in the name of freedom in 1941. For the few Pearl Harbor survivors able to make the trek to this sacred place, their message to future generations is clear: Remember Pearl Harbor, the tremendous sacrifice that was made that day, and the terrible consequences of war.

This year, the National Park Service and Pacific Historic Parks shared the historical significance of that day with more than 6,000 schoolchildren statewide, including students at Honokaa, Waimea, Kohala, Kealakehe and Holualoa elementary schools, Kamehameha Schools and the YMCA’s Club Y Teens program. Students learned the true story of an unlikely friendship between the late Pearl Harbor survivor Richard Fiske and Japanese fighter pilot Zenji Abe, through the reading of “Pearl Harbor Warriors: The Bugler, The Pilot, The Friendship.”

A bugler on the USS West Virginia, Fiske witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the destruction that happened at the hands of Japanese fighter pilots. For many years, his heart was filled with anger and hatred for the Japanese and his health suffered because of this.

In 1991, Abe offered an apology for the attack to members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors and extended his hand in friendship. Fiske accepted his apology and the two became friends. At Abe’s request, Fiske placed two roses at the Arizona Memorial, then played taps on his bugle, each month until he died in 2004.

Pacific Historic Parks purchased 175 copies of the book to provide to each participating school.

“It’s a very inspirational book and the second time I read it, I cried,” said Hakunani Anakalea, group leader of the A+ program at Holualoa Elementary School. “The book makes the emotions of the characters come alive and illustrates the importance of forgiveness.”

Fifth-grade student Anuhea Kainoa-Cho said the book had a good story and added, “I learned about protecting others and why people should make up when they disagree.”