“Somewhere in that morning, I lost that 17-year-old sailor, and I never ever again found him. I don’t know what happened to him,” Earl “Chuck” Kohler recounted, as he shared what happened on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Kohler is a 97-year-old survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack, and he currently lives in Clayton. The 17-year-old was on the air base on Dec. 7, 1941, as he witnessed the ships and gas tanks explode and watched people die as the ships burned and sank.

Veterans who served during the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II attended the event honoring the 58th annual Pearl Harbor Day at the California State University, East Bay campus in Concord on Tuesday.

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The event began with a speech from Wayne Korsinen, honorary member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, who also introduced the Pearl Harbor survivors and other speakers for the day.

Kohler, who is one of the last few living Pearl Harbor survivors, shared an emotional poem during his speech. “It’s grateful and good to see these remembrances go on,” he said. “And I hope that even after all of us survivors are gone, that there will still be someone who will care enough not only to remember Pearl Harbor but to come wherever these events are held on each December 7, and do what we ourselves are no longer able to do.”

The Pearl Harbor Remembrance Beacon shines on top of Mount Diablo on Dec. 7, 2021. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

The ceremony concluded with the lighting of the restored Pearl Harbor Remembrance Beacon on the top of Mount Diablo, also known as “The Eye of Diablo.”

Kohler had one message for anybody looking at the beacon on Pearl Harbor Day. “Anytime from sunset on the 7th to sunrise on the 8th, if people watch the beacon as it rotates, and it sends it broader, brighter and newer beam of remembrance out across all the alleys below,” he said. “Then if they listen real carefully, not only with their ears but with hearts and respectful mind, all those people will communicate with and so they will do in unison, and their message — their plea — will always be the same: Remember us! Remember us! We gave our lives while in service to you.”