Pearl Harbor survivor wants kids to remember his generation’s 9/11

Firsthand accounts of Pearl Harbor are becoming a treasured piece of history.

Pearl Harbor survivor Firman Balza speaks to Denmark High School students

DENMARK, Wis. (WBAY) – In two weeks our country will observe the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the darkest days in our country’s history.

What Firman Balza experienced 75 years ago while serving on the USS Maryland is ingrained in his memory.

“It’s something you didn’t dream up at night, or wake up with a bad dream in the middle of the night. No, it’s there. All you have to do is turn the page and there it is.”

Balza is believed to be just one of seven Pearl Harbor survivors still living in the state of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, the entire student body at Denmark High School listened to his unfiltered, firsthand account.

“Whether people believe it or not, that’s their prerogative. You can believe it or you can think it’s a lot of bull. I know what’s right and what isn’t because I’ve seen it.”

Mark Weigman, an English teacher, remarked, “It’s history, and how often do you get a chance to have a history book walk into your school and have the kids witness that?”

Along with sharing his Pearl Harbor experience, Balza challenges students to, as he describes it, unplug from all their gadgets.

“Most people don’t understand what it means to be born free,” he says.

“One word: responsibility. Between your ears you have a mind of your own, you know what’s happening to the mind of your own, their listening to somebody else instead of taking what they hear and taking it apart and take the good stuff and throw away the trash.”

At 93, Balza remains committed to keep the memory of Pearl Harbor alive for as long as he can.

“Oh, they always say when they see the guy laying in the box there, ‘Oh he’s gone to a better place.’ Well that’s nice to believe that, but you know what, there ain’t too much wrong with the spot right where you’re standing,” Balza said.

“I don’t say that I’m going to be the last Pearl Harbor survivor. I can’t say that. But I’ll be working at it.”