PAINESVILLE, Ohio - Jack Stoner was on his way to the mess hall at his Army base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when he saw a Japanese plane start strafing.
"He was trying to hit me and I ran," Stoner said. "Don't ask me where I ran, but I ran."
Stoner was one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who attended the annual Pearl Harbor Day banquet at Hellriegel's Inn in Painesville. The restaurant was packed with veterans of all wars and all branches of service. But the men of the hour were the Pearl Harbor vets.
"We were putting chairs up for church and the planes came," Navy veteran Lawrence Sofia said in an interview with NewsChannel 5. "When the general alarm went off, we ran to our guns. We put our life jackets on, helmets. We ran out of ammunition and we couldn't get any more because the electrical power was out and the ammunition came from down below decks."
Sofia was a sailor on the USS West Virginia, which took seven torpedoes. He still has a piece of shrapnel in his hand from the exploding USS Arizona.
"They sounded the abandon ship because it was sinking and just at that time a bomb hit the ship and I got blown overboard into the water," he said. "Good thing I had my life jacket on. That saved me."
Sofia and Stoner, who both live in Mayfield Heights, have become good friends. However, they didn't meet until they were back in northeast Ohio when Stoner spotted Sofia's Pearl Harbor license plate outside a local restaurant. They saw each other again Friday at the banquet.
"It just gives you a good feeling to be with the rest of them," Sofia said.
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