Amid the crowd at a ceremony inside a Farmingdale war museum, Ken Schultz carried a photograph that connected him to a dark moment in American history - Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
Schultz bore a framed photograph of his uncle, Kenneth L. Jayne, of Patchogue, who was among the 2,403 Americans killed in the surprise attack that took place 75 years ago.
For Schultz and a few others who attended the hourlong ceremony Wednesday at the American Air Power Museum, Pearl Harbor was more than a memory - it had taken family members from their lives.
“The new generation only knows 9/11, but we know Pearl Harbor,” said Schultz, 62, whose mother, Lila Jayne, was Kenneth Jayne’s younger sister.
“My mother would always talk about him,” said Schultz, of Patchogue, a retired Long Island Rail Road motorman. “I’ve been wondering about him all my life. I was named after him.”
Jayne, who was a Navy Fireman Third Class, was among 429 sailors and Marines who perished aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma after it was struck by several torpedoes and capsized in its berth.
The Pearl Harbor commemoration, an annual event organized by the Long Island Air Force Association, drew a crowd of some 300 veterans and their family members to the museum, a converted hangar that contains several warplanes that helped win WWII.
Two survivors of the attack, Gerard Barbosa, 93, of East Meadow, and Seymour Blutt, 98, of Manhattan, attended, as did the widows of several others who had lived through the attack.
Afterward, a T-6 trainer - the same model aircraft that helped train WWII pilots - flew to the Statue of Liberty to drop 75 ceremonial roses over New York Harbor.
Speakers at the gathering reminded the audience that the Pearl Harbor attack shook America from what had been an isolationist foreign policy.
“That moment became a defining memory for a generation, as September 11 would become a defining moment for a later generation,” retired Major General Anthony Kropp said of Pearl Harbor at the ceremony.
The attack persuaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to enter World War II, a gargantuan war effort that would eventually involve 16.1 million American troops in combat or support roles. The war claimed the lives of 405,399 American troops, and killed as many as 70 million people worldwide.
Betty DuBrul, 91, of Levittown, attended in memory of her late husband Donald, a Pearl Harbor survivor who died eight years ago.
She said that, although her husband was pained by memories of capsizing ships and exploding bombs, he would have come to the ceremony.
“It was hard for him,” she said. “He said many times I don’t want to remember seeing pieces of people. But he would not have wanted us to forget.”