For most, the Tucson Festival of Books is an opportunity to rub elbows with some of the literary elite. Or at the very least, stare at them from afar working up the courage to have your tattered copy of a beloved novel signed. While we wait patiently for pages to be graced with an authors John Hancock, we rejoice in celebration of the art of literature and the written word with fellow bibliophiles. We stuff Bookmans’ totes with festival author novels and new non-fic finds. We emerge ourselves in panels and discussions on the writing process. But aside from all of that sweet bookish goodness is an array of community engagement and celebrations or art, science and learning. No TFOB event embodies this more than the Young Author Competition. Sponsored by Altrusa International of Tucson in collaboration with Tucson Festival of Books, the Young Author Competition encourages young would be Pulitzer Prize winners to create. Whether it be through poetry, short story or essay, any child from pre-k to pre-college in invited to put pen to paper and try their hand at prose.
Bookmans is once again involved in the Young Authors Competition and couldn’t be more thrilled to do so. In addition to offering prizes to winners in the form of some Bookmans gift certs we also invited a few to be featured here on Bookmans.com. Over the next few days we will be posting one entry each day leading up to Tucson Festival of Books. Please enjoy today’s feature Will You Survive? by 6th grader Filomena Fontaine.
Will You Survive?
“It was early in the morning as the bullets started ripping through the air. They rained down like the Holy Ghost from those cursed Japanese planes. My brothers all screamed curses at those demons. And that’s when that first torpedo fell.
That Type 91 torpedo falling was the Devil’s trumpet releasing the first wave of chaos. Men ran to AA guns and started firing ear-popping rounds at the zeros. That torpedo had impacted on the stern of the U.S.S. Arizona, causing a colossal explosion. I could hear men shouting for assistance to evacuate the trapped sailors and Marines. A tall, lanky boy ran up to me, heavily panting, “Lieutenant Commander Fuqua wants you to assist in getting people off the ship!” he looked at me, deadly calm, “There’s a fire in the galley and it’s spreading. We have to hurry.” We sprinted across the cold concrete ground to the dock. The control tower began to keel over as thick, black smoke billowed over 500 feet in the air. When I found a small motorboat that was relatively close to the ship, I gathered a few other Marines and we sped off towards the looming figure of the U.S.S. Arizona. We hurriedly climbed the worn rope nets onto the deck. I entered the ship, smoke was choking the narrow hallways, making it nearly impossible to breathe. I continued on. The horrible odor of burning flesh and hair reached my nose, and with it, the sickly-sweet stench of death. Running, I found the first charred body. It was my friend, Private John Fisher. “Fisher, everything will be fine. This will hurt.” I then proceeded to drag Fisher down the ash dusted and smoky hallways, his skin coming off like sleeves as we moved. We got to the recognizable part of the main deck, the rest was in ruins, twisted bodies mangled with metal, blood, oil, and fuel. Medics had set up a temporary infirmary, men lying in rows waiting to be examined. I layed him down, doing my best to block out his shouts of agony. I could see LCDR Fuqua directing rescue crews into the gallery and sick bay, hoping to reach those who were trapped inside. Out sailors manned AA guns on every ship and fired huge anti-aircraft rounds at the zeros, meeting them and shredding them into shrapnel. I couild feel the ship sinking and listing, shuddering and hearing her groans as she was ripped apart, bolt by bolt and rivet by rivet, and with came the horrifying realization that most of us would be dead. Not enough sailors were below deck to seal off the sections filling with water. Not enough of us were able to help…panic raged in my chest. The galley was filled deeply with water when I found it. There were far too many floating bodies and limbs, ravaged and burned by fires. I found one man alive, but just barely, and pulled him to a ladder well and handed him off to another Marine. We carried him to the main deck and set him down. Then another Type 91 torpedo hit the artillery storage, and an explosion erupted. Fisher locked eyes with me, then disappeared in the wall of flame. The body, barely recognizable as another Marine brother I knew as, George Racuel, was flung with me through the air. I immediately tried to grab him to protect him from an impact. Behind me George was writhing as pain took hold, then was still. I barely had enough power to swim to him. My leg must have been broken when I hit debris in the water. I tread water, keeping George afloat and I saw other men jumping from the ship, on fire. Some, like George and I, made it off of the ship. Others impacted hard on the hull as she listed. I choked back a sob. It had been just eight minutes. Our ship was almost sunk, except for our control tower, remaining above the water like a giant effigy of death, spreading his arms to collect us all, but I assumed that would soon be submerged as well. I started swimming towards the shore on my back with my arm across George’s chest and his head limp on my shoulder. My leg was pulsing with agony and seizing up. We finally reached the shore, though it took me an excruciatingly painful amount of effort. W.A.V.E.S helped carry George while I collapsed on the sand, staring at the control tower as it sunk lower and lower, and the thick, black smoke rising behind it. With the taste of copper in my mouth and the ringing in my ears, I realized that my adrenaline was subsiding. I slipped into the darkness of unconsciousness.
When I woke up the next morning I started weeping for all of my lost comrades. My brothers, whom I had bled with, were dead or dying at the hands of the Japs. Colonel Gray came in and ordered me, “Private First Class hale turn on your radio. Your President is speaking.” I slowly turned it on. President Roosevelt’s speech was a faint echo. All that I understood was that we were officially at war with the Japanese Empire. Congress enlisted us in a war that the Japanese had started, and the survivors of Pearl Harbor will fight to end it. Only one line was memorable to me. Roosevelt referred to that day as, “a date that will live in infamy.” With my splint on my leg and most of my brothers dead, I had one thought seared into my mind: revenge.”
With TFOB drawing nearer and nearer we continue this series through Saturday and kick off Thursday with another one from the winners.
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