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Pearl Harbor – The story I’ll always remember

December 7, 2009

Mead Chapel at Middlebury College

My mother Nina Camuti Danielsen was attending a Sunday chapel service as a junior at Middlebury College on Dec. 7 1941.

Perched against a backdrop of Vermont woods and snowy mountains, Mead Chapel looks like an old Christmas card, a gothic white marble structure with large front doors, raised-wood paneling, carved sculptures, tiny tucked-away doors leading to back hallways and a giant pointy spire that pokes the clouds. Built with a mix of architectural styles, the interior resembles more of a New England meeting house. The light cast at night from the Mead Chapel can be seen throughout the valley.

Her friend Tony, the football quarterback, used to ski down the hill from the chapel on one garbage-picked wooden ski.

On this cold Vermont day, everyone at the college was in attendance for this service. It was mandatory. The choir was singing. A tall blonde student from Hawaii was performing her solo when someone bounded through the big doors screaming, “They bombed Pearl Harbor. They bombed Pearl Harbor.” Mom said the student continued to sing her solo, standing bolt straight in front of the audience, as tears streamed down her face. Everyone in the room knew their lives had just changed forever. They looked to the one who would be immediately impacted. She stayed strong and continued on. How brave she must have been. That generation will never forget where they were that morning, just as I will never forget where I was and how I felt on 911.

I can’t help but wonder if every student and faculty member didn’t walk out of the chapel that morning reciting the words carved above the front door, “The Strength of the Hills is His Also.” Psalm 95:4.

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