At 8:06 AM, on this peaceful Sabbath morning, Lucinda Fuentas' heart jumped and skipped beats as she froze in fear in her little shack by the harbor. .30 caliber bullets streamed through her flimsy tin wall in staccato fury, a half dozen shattering holes on the opposite wall above her new born baby's orange-crate crib. The wooden crucifix shook off the wall and fell.
The deafening screaming roar of a fighter plane overhead shook the flimsy building to its wooden foundation.
"Madre d' Dios, help us!" she screamed as she hurried to the infant and instinctively fell with her to the wooden floor.
"What could be happening?"
Her family had only been here a year from the Philippines. She worked as a maid on the Navy base. After having her baby a week before, shewould be returning to work on Monday.
Another fighter joined in patrolling the road during the remainder of the initial raid. It zoomed overhead strafing the road outside. Their mission was to shoot at anything that moved.
Lucinda's husband was due home after the night shift; her father-law had walked to the little barrio for fresh bread for the simple feast this day.
The roars and pelting of bullets continued as the three white planes with the red sun's symbol flew back and forth over Pearl Harbor.
She crawled to the doorway in time to see a young man on her right riding a bicycle. He turned from the little path from the back gate of the base on to the main dirt road. As he looked back at the approaching banshee above him, he and his bicycle disappeared in huge puffs of dusty road gyesering all around him. When the dust cleared, the bicycle was sprawled on the side of the road and the young man's body was face down in a grotesque arrangement.
She understood little of the maneuvers the Americanos had practiced so much recently. She had asked Miguel and his father as they spoke of it last week. They explained that war was imminent with the Empire of Japan and not to worry, since it did not concern them directly. Miguel would certainly continue to work in the navy yard and his father was too old to be inducted if the confrontation should ever come.
Peeking out the bottom of the door on her left, she saw her father-in-law walking back with a bag of loaves of bread. He was nonchalantly walking to the hut when he stopped to roll a cigarette. A straining Mitsubishi engine pointing at him and spitting death in his direction overpowered her scream. He never finished rolling the cigarette. Lucinda ran to him and dragged him inside. With tears in her eyes between sobs, scolded him like a naughty child. He begged her to stop because he couldn't talk. It hurt too much. His head dropped back and was forever still.
Another strafing pass over her hut, ripped up the roof sending pieces showering down the front door. Her tiny stove with the porcelain covering shattered into tinkling pieces. She hurriedly wrapped the infant girl, Marisol, in a blanket and ran out the back door to hide in the high keawa bushes. The marauders hadn't seen her.
A flash of new fear streaked across her mind. If she and the baby were killed, the child would not be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. It had yet to be baptized. She must save her baby's soul, she thought. The small church was diagonally across the grassy field. She must save her baby.
As she crouched and crawled in sandy mud from recent rain, she heard pounding explosions in the harbor where the great gray ships lay at anchor.
Three quarters of the way towards the church, a prodigious shock wave knocked her and the baby down. It was instantaneously followed by the sound of an explosion which shook the very earth she crawled on.
"Dios, ayudanos," she whispered. This surely was their last day on earth. Perhaps, she thought, the explosion was the Gate of Hell itself opening on this day.
She did not know, at the time, of the Arizona's passing into history.
The last fifty yards, Lucinda dashed for the entrance of the church as she clasped her baby to her breast with the force only a desperate mother can use, arms of steel and velvet intertwined in love. Death could have relaxed the grip of her arms, but not unfold them. Thirty yards from her goal, a Japanese pilot had seen her and arced his plane toward her. His task was that nothing must move beneath his wings so as to protect his fellow pilots performing their mission in destroying the American fleet. The running figure carrying something must be stopped and, if not killed, forced to remain still. As he approached the figure, he saw it was a small woman, but it made no difference. He took aim and fired as she a mounted the church steps by twos. He squeezed the trigger. She fell forward to the ground. As he pulled up slightly, stained glass of the façade shattered and sprayed inwardly in a colorful cascade of glass and splinters. Huge holes with chunks of wood missing, were rent from the back pews as Lucinda sprawled forward, holding the baby to the side. The howling banshee arced away from the tiny church, satisfied in the lack of movement below.
She removed the blanket covering the baby's face. Although crying from the rough handling and sprawling, she was unhurt.
A corporal appeared from between the pews and dragged her to the side of the of the church against the wall.
"Gracias, Senor, gracias," she cried.
"What are you doing here, Senora? Don't you know there's a war going on? What in the good Christ's name are you doing here!" he said with quiet agitation.
"Por favor, Senor, you baptize my baby?"
"Please, en nombre de Dios, Senor" she pleaded as she broke down and cried uncontrollably.
"Lady, I'm not a priest. I'm just the organist."
She continued to cry and she hugged her child all the more. He understood her reason and admired her courage exposing herself and the baby to the flying death outside.
Look, " he said, "you don't need a priest. You can do it yourself."
"I don't know how, Senor. Please tell me how," she pleaded.
"Look, you just need a little water and....Here wait a minute, I'll do it for you, okay? Then later, you can get Father Ray to do it again if you want to make it more official, all right?"
She nodded her head quickly.
"Hang on, I'll get some water out of the rectory."
He crawled to the room where there was a small sink. He tried the faucet with a cup beneath it, but there was no pressure.
"Damn," he thought, "They must have knocked out the water tower."
He peered out the rear door and ran across the road to a small building, looked through an icebox and found a bottle of cold water. He ran back into the church and opened it to pour some on the baby's forehead.
"Please, Senor, what is your name?"
"Why?" he asked, but without waiting for her answer, he said," Joe....Joseph Philip Corkel... just Joe."
"She is Marisol Corinda Fuentas, Senor Joe."
He then proceeded to gently pour a few drops on the infant's forehead. He incanted the simple words, " Marisol Corinda Fuentas, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."
The baby began to cry as the cold water dropped down gently, but she almost stopped as he kissed her forehead. Lucinda began to cry and hugged her child again and dropped her head onto the baby's shoulder.
"Now, Mrs. Fuentas, you'll be okay, " he said. "You just stay here for a little while and when this is over, you go home, okay?"
She nodded as she wept.
He crouched looking out the front door for a few seconds and dashed into the high grass.
Joe Corkle worked his way back to the Shofield Barracks and manned an anti-aircraft gun. When the second attack wave hit Pearl Harbor, he fired and cursed for twenty minutes, finally hitting a Zero. It came down billowing smoke at a shallow angle, trying to reach a building to dive into, but it sheared the top of a eucalyptus tree and continued on. It exploded into a pineapple field outside the gate. Ten minutes later, Joe Corkle and his partner died at their posts with swarming Zeros, strafing and bombing.
Today, Marisol Corinda Fuentas is sixty years old. She remembers nothing of this true incident, but she has three sons, Joseph, Felipe and Oriondo, nicknamed "Corky".
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