HONOLULU -- A few weeks ago, 72-year-old Marylander Frank Bartos wept over Pearl Harbor for the first time.
The memories, he said yesterday, came hurtling: the burning oil, the charred bodies, the unimaginable pain that the wounded endured.
At a poignant ceremony for survivors of the attack, the Camp Springs man lifted his eyes toward the blue Hawaiian sky as a giant 48-star flag was raised for the first time in honor of the Pearl Harbor dead.
Mr. Bartos, a retired ticket manager for the then-Baltimore Colts, whispered: "Could be the crying's not over yet."
Six thousand Pearl Harbor survivors, including about 70 Marylanders, and their families have returned to Honolulu to mark tomorrow's 50th anniversary of the attack.
"We can relate to each other," said Mr. Bartos, who was a Navy disburser at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor in 1941. "Talking to someone else about about this, like my children, it's hard. To them, it's history. To me, it's memory."
Dressed in aloha shirts and toting Factor 30 suntan lotion, several thousand people in their late 60s and 70s gathered under the hot sun at Fort DeRussy to honor their shared memory.
"We arrive aching, white-haired survivors," said Gerald Glaubitz, the mayor of Morningside, Md., and the president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "Then, we were mostly in our teens. At that time our futures were forever.
"It is for lives deprived that we grieve. This is the Pearl Harbor we remember, an act of treachery, deceit unmatched," he said. "This is the Pearl Harbor we do not forget."
In brief comments to the survivors, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney called the "massive sneak attack" that killed more than 2,400 Americans a "watershed event in the history of the world, a day that separated all that came before from all that came after."
Although U.S. military forces are being reduced, Mr. Cheney said the "character" of the armed services would be retained so long
as Congress does not "slash the defense budget mindlessly."
The thousands of survivors have returned to a much-changed Hawaii. There are skyscrapers where there were beaches, strip shopping centers where there were sugar-cane fields and, as Mr. Bartos noted, retirees where there were young servicemen.
"Our faces are different but the personalities are the same," Mr. Bartos said.
"You know, Pearl Harbor was the worst experience of my life. But, in coming back, we've found each other again, not only the pain but the good times, too. We shouldn't forget the good times."