Aloha! Aloha! Rounds of the greeting bounced between survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack on the USS Oklahoma in Hawaii and students in the Sooner State during a live video-conference Thursday afternoon. About 8,000 students at more than 90 schools took part, and at 10 schools — including a class of sixth-graders at the Knowledge Is Power Program Reach College Preparatory School in Oklahoma City — students asked survivors questions in real time over the video link. "It was very interesting because I actually got to learn things from a person that actually experienced this, that experienced a really famous event,” said Joey Gregory, 11, who asked a question during the live Web cast.
Preparation and privilegeThe 28 KIPP students almost lost their chance to talk to the survivors because of technical problems. Despite a dry-run the day before, the class spent the first half-hour of the live statewide video conference waiting for the connection to work. Principal Tracy McDaniel stepped in to keep them focused, asking them questions about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S.'s subsequent involvement in the war. Most students' hands shot up at every question. Their social studies teacher, Rexi Graham, said she started preparing them last week. "The usual sixth-grade curriculum is ancient civilizations, but we couldn't pass up this opportunity,” she said. "An activity such as this is really rare, and we did a lot of explanation on how important this is and how privileged we are to be able to participate.”
Two ‘lucky' menWhen it finally was the KIPP Academy's turn to ask a question, Gregory was ready. "My question is, what was it like to be one of the survivors of Pearl Harbor?” Survivor Paul Goodyear answered first. He lived, he says, because he worked as a signalman. "I just happened to stay on the signal bridge and the torpedo never hit the signal bridge,” Goodyear said, "so I was lucky.” Survivor George Brown's answer was similar, because it was all about luck. "I was lucky to get off the ship because I was down below,” he said. "Three torpedoes hit before I got on station and when I got on station another one hit within 20 feet of me and the force of the water threw me into the next compartment.” The torpedoes jammed his exit. "Me being small I was able to squeeze through,” he said. "Otherwise my name would be on one of those standards out there, as well.”
‘A wonderful experience'The celebration on the 66th anniversary was scheduled for the dedication of a USS Oklahoma memorial. The timing is important, McDaniel said. "It's a wonderful experience and let me tell you why — because World War II was so long ago,” said McDaniel, whose father was a veteran. "When I was growing up, my dad talked about World War II. Their parents are talking about the Iraq war in '91, Desert Storm.”
The participantsSchools that interacted with the survivors Thursday: •Asher Public School, Asher •Bixby Middle School, Bixby •Cushing Middle School, Cushing •KIPP Reach College Preparatory School, Oklahoma City •Deer Creek Elementary, Oklahoma City •Jones High School, Jones •Lincoln Academy, Stillwater •McLain High School for Science and Technology, Tulsa •Mustang Valley Elementary, Mustang •Hamilton Middle School, Tulsa