STORY: A Pearl Harbor Survivor with a Penchant for Disaster Relief

December 7, 2012

Story by Adrian Brune, photo by Jeramie Williams

Pearl Harbor 1

Looking out over the setting sun on Beech Street in the Rockaways, Dorinda Nicholson estimated the distance from where she stood to the Hurricane Sandy disaster zone measured about the same as her childhood home to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Nicholson, then a first grader at Sacred Hearts Convent School on Oahu, was asleep in bed with her dog, Hula Girl, when the Japanese planes came raining down on the naval base – about a mile from her parents house – and the oily black smoke ascended from battleship row. Seventy-one years later, Nicholson, a psychotherapist from Kansas City, walked the streets of Long Beach with the other members of the Red Cross Integrated Care Team knocking on doors and looking for Hurricane Sandy survivors who still needed help and support.

“You never believe something like this is going to happen to you – it’s the same feeling I had during Pearl Harbor,” said Nicholson, carrying a clipboard and copies of the Red Cross’ booklet Moving Forward After a Disaster. “Every disaster has a different feel to it, but there’s always the shaking of that sense of control you thought you had over your life and then sorting things out and reprioritizing.

“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here. I knew people needed to hear from someone who had that experience, too.”

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