Dorinda Makanaonalani had just gotten dressed for Sunday school when her father wondered aloud, “Why are the airplanes practicing today.”
Minutes later the six-year-old learned why.
It was Dec. 7, 1941, and just before 8 a.m. she heard the thunderous sound of bombs exploding and her home, in Pearl City, began to shake. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, long thought to be a safe and secure haven on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Today, she is Dorinda Nicholson and was one of 16 authors who spoke during the Iola Family Reading Festival at Allen Community College Saturday.
She told her story of experiencing the attack and its aftermath in “Pearl Harbor Child.” She also has written “Pearl Harbor Warriors,” about a burglar on one of the U.S. ships and a Japanese pilot who later became friends, as well as “Remember World War II,” childhood memories of 15 survivors in the Pacific and European theaters, as well as the U.S.
“If you’re almost 80, you have a World War II story,” Nicholson, 77, told her audience.
As for her own experiences, Nicholson recalled having to carry a gas mask to school each day, with it hanging around her neck, and hearing President Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech the day after the attack.
“We lived near the harbor, and had a front-row seat to a great event in history,” she said of the surprise attack.
Nicholson also documented the logistics of the attack, of the Japanese attack fleet sailing 4,000 miles to north of Hawaii from Japan, while observing radio silence, and taking advantage of spies who had relayed information about Pearl Harbor from observations made from surrounding hills.
“We were lucky the Japanese didn’t follow through and invade the island,” she said. “We were crushed the morning after the attack.”
Nicholson noted the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers was eerily similar for her to the one on Pearl Harbor, with black smoke from burning fuel rising from each.
THE READING festival drew about 400 participants, including 250 adults, said Becky Nilges, one of the organizers, along with “90-plus volunteers who made the festival happen.”
She added overall numbers were about the same as the first festival two years ago, but that this time more adults attended. Assessment of rare and older books and a program on how to download books encouraged more adults to attend, Nilges said.
“We had about 40 people bring more than 100 books to the ‘Rare Books Road Show,’” she said.
Nilges said most involved thought having the festival on even-numbered years was a good idea, with plans to work toward Iola’s third in 2014. This year’s was funded by donations from businesses, trusts and foundations.
“One of our struggles in planning this year’s festival was the challenges of holding it the weekend prior to Thanksgiving,” she said. “The first festival was in September, but the state had a reading festival in September and we didn’t want to have ours the same time and have to struggle with securing authors. We’ll have to look carefully at the calendar for the one in 2014.
“It’s a good project to partner with Iola Reads and supports its goals, as well as the (Iola Public) library’s service goals,” Nilges said. “Bringing in 16 authors of the caliber we had is something for a community of our size.”