"About ten minutes to eight Sunday morning we were awakened by a noise of planes, and what sounded like bombing and firing - we, of course, like many others, thought it was just a practice alert. I put on my coat over my pajamas, went out to get the paper, and when I failed to discover it, stayed for a while to watch the planes which were flying very low. The Rodby boys, also pajama clad, suddenly appeared, explaining breathlessly, "Oh, Miss Gowen, this is a raid - see the rising sun on those planes, and look at the smoke over there." Just then, one dived even lower, and I could see what appeared to be a rising sun but thought it was just my imagination. Mil' looked out the window to say she was almost shaken out of her bed and she wished they wouldn't have such noisy alerts on Sunday. We decided, since we were awake, to go to nine-fifteen Mass."
That is the second paragraph taken from the letter written by Helene Gowen by typewriter near Pearl Harbor, on "that date which will live in infamy." Sixty-seven years ago, our country was attacked by Japanese war planes and we were drawn into World War II.
The letter is published in full in today's Houston Chronicle. Two nieces of the U.S. Army's librarian live in the city. This letter, written to relatives at home to provide the day's events and reassurance that she was ok, has been passed down through the generations to keep the family history alive.
The nieces remember Gowen, who died in 2002 at age 98, as a "proper lady, committed professional and dutiful aunt who was unfailingly reliable with birthday and Christmas checks when they were young". The family has a long history of military members. She was buried in Arlington National Cemetery along with her immediate family.
She typed the letter to her family so she could get more words on two pages - the amount to which she was limited.