The Cedars Residents Reflect: Where Were They on December 7, 1941?

Margot Cliff was 7 and living in Hilo, Hawaii, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. “I didn’t really know what the ramifications would be,” she said. “How do you describe war to a young child?” Staff photo by Derek Davis

In anticipation of the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, our residents met with Gillian Graham of the Portland Press Herald to reminisce about hearing the news 76 years ago today – and how it shaped their lives in the years after. Thank you, Gillian Graham for this wonderful article. Visit PPH for the full article.

She was 7 and standing outside her house in Hilo, Hawaii, with her father as he prepared to leave for a morning church service when a neighbor came running into the yard with news of the Japanese attack that would leave 2,403 Americans dead and push the United States to enter World War II. Two hundred miles away from Pearl Harbor, Cliff’s family wasn’t in immediate danger as the bombs fell, but realities of war surrounded the young girl in the months and years to follow.

Seventy-six years after the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would “live in infamy,” Cliff and three other residents of The Atrium at The Cedars in Portland reflected this week on the moment they heard about the attack and how it shaped their lives in the years after.

Cliff, who was born in Hawaii and lived there until she moved to the mainland at age 12, was living a quiet life on the island with her sister and their father, a Congregationalist minister.

“I didn’t really know what the ramifications would be,” said Cliff, now 83. “How do you describe war to a young child?”

Immediately after the attack, no gatherings of more than 10 people were allowed. Cliff’s father, the Rev. T. Markham Talmage, held services with nine people at a time. Everyone on the island was issued a gas mask and had to carry it at all times. Every few months, the school library would be filled with tear gas and students were marched through to test the masks. Those who hadn’t put their masks on correctly came out crying, Cliff said. Read more …

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