Remembering Pearl Harbor: New Haven residents reflect


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Many people were doing ordinary things on December 7, 1941, such as studying, playing football, or relaxing at home with their families, when they heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio. They say their lives changed forever.

“I was 17 years old studying for a Latin exam in my beloved city of Waterbury, Connecticut when the news came over,” said Norman Feitelson. “At that moment I said my life is going to be impacted or changed.”

The bombing is still a vivid memory for some of the men and women at Tower One/Tower East in New Haven. Gertrude Lerman was 25 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. She’s now 100.

“We had just moved into our first home on that Sunday, on the 7th, so the whole family was there,” said Lerman.

For some, hearing what had happened was especially frightening.

“It was a very traumatic thing for me because I had just escaped the Holocaust,” said Isidor Juda.

Juda had only recently moved to the U.S. from Switzerland. He was just 19 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Like many young men, he enlisted after the attack.

“I said to my parents, this time I’ll be able to defend myself and my new country,” Juda said.

Residents watched television shows about the tragedy on Wednesday, knowing the impact it ended up having on their lives. But back then they had questions.

“What happened?” But where is Pearl Harbor?” said Sylvia Rifkin, who was 20 at the time. “We had no idea where Pearl Harbor was.”

People listening to the coverage were shocked. They never thought something like that could happen. Though they didn’t know what was to come, they knew it would affect them.

“We all knew that our lives were going to change completely, which they did,” said Lerman.

It was a turning point for them – and for the United States.

“I can’t believe it’s 75 years that have gone by,” said Vicki Smith, who was 16 at the time. “But it brings it all home today.”

The residents say they were amazed by how the country came together after the attack, and that they were – and still are – very proud to be Americans.

“The way that the country as a country did what they had to do – I’m satisfied that in any future difficulties they will also be prepared,” said Howard Laniado, who was just 14 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.