Lincoln-Way East teacher commemorates Pearl Harbor attacks with personal story
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the usually loud hallway speakers at Lincoln-Way East fell silent between first and second hour classes. Normally during the passing period, a song plays over the speakers for “World Music Wednesday” to commemorate or honor someone’s culture.

“World Music Wednesday” stemmed from the idea of embracing cultural differences among a diverse population. The Lincoln-Way East School Improvement Team, comprised of the Griffin staff, began the tradition in January of 2016. A teacher or student typically choose songs based on their own heritage, interests, or travels in order to honor a country or special place that has contributed to their lives. The song is then played between first and second hour during the passing period, followed up by a cultural explanation from the individual who chose the music. At the end of the day, music again plays over the school speakers to close out “World Music Wednesday.”

In lieu of the usual “World Music Wednesday” song today, teacher Jim Aiu began morning announcements with a personal testimonial to honor the victims of the attacks of December 7, 1941. Aiu has been teaching for over 30 years. He is 50 percent Hawaiian, and 57 of his relatives were killed in the attacks.

“Everyone knows the attack from history,” he said. “Here’s what it was like for those who lived there, transcribed for you.”

Aiu went on to read portions of the 60 page testimonial written by his father, grandfather, and grandmother. The testimonial not only described the day of the attack, but also the aftermath of the events. “In the months after the attack, Hawaii was under ‘curfew.’ All citizens were to be home, wear nothing but black clothing, and limit moving within the house. Every home was given one black painted lightbulb so you could have some light at night…All citizens had gas masks around their necks issued by the government…The fear of a second attack became their ‘culture,’” he said. After his grandparents passed away, Aiu and his family cleaned out their house, finding a box under their bed which contained two black lightbulbs, two full length black dresses, a transistor radio, batteries, gas masks, and two envelopes labeled “If I’m captured by the Japanese.” To this day, he and his family have never opened the envelopes. “For many Hawaiians, the fear never went away,” he said.

Aiu then explained why the speakers had fallen silent between first and second period. “Aloha Oe’ means ‘until we meet again.’ ‘Aloha Oe’ is sung at the end of all Hawaiian weddings, funerals, family reunions, etc. We never say goodbye. We say ‘until we meet again.’” At the end of the day on December 7, ‘Aloha Oe’ will be performed over the loud speakers to commemorate “World Music Wednesday.”

Aiu finished his speech by honoring all servicemen and servicewomen. “Today, we honor not only the 2,400 Americans who lost their lives on Pearl Harbor Day and the 57 relatives I never got to meet; we honor all who lost their lives in the midst of protecting our freedom, and just as important, those who are out there now protecting both our freedom and liberty. Please join me in a moment of both remembrance and support.”