It began with the promise of another beautiful, warm day in the islands.
Patricia Clay was sitting outside in a glider swing that winter morning, awaiting the huge breakfast her father always cooked on Sundays.
The family lived in base housing on Schofield Barracks, the Army outpost at Oahu, where George Clay was a chief warrant officer. They'd been there for four years, since Patricia was 5, and she really liked Hawaii. From her front yard, Patricia could look out over a polo field and the looming mountains, smell the Pacific in the distance.
She was enjoying that view a little before 8 o'clock when she saw four servicemen casually walking across the polo field. It was easy in the islands on Sundays, not much going on.
Then she noticed the planes coming over the mountains — must have been a dozen of them. At first it meant little to her. It was, after all, a military base.
But suddenly one of the planes broke formation and swooped down in her direction. As it banked over the polo field, she heard the machine-gun fire. The four soldiers fell. And then the plane banked high into a clear blue sky and disappeared over the mountain, toward Pearl Harbor.
Patricia sat in the glider, afraid to move, staring in disbelief.
It was Dec. 7, 1941, and the world had just changed.
Today is the 66th anniversary of the day that will live in infamy, and Patricia, now Pat Tsalichis, cannot help but think of that horrible morning at this time every year.
"I get so sad," Tsalichis says. "It was terrible. I remember I was petrified, I didn't know whether to run or not."
Tsalichis, 75, has been a Charleston resident since the 1950s, and a cashier at S&S Cafeteria in West Ashley for more than 18 years. She talks about that day with some of the veterans who come in to eat, but she doesn't make much of it. Many of her colleagues at the restaurant don't know the things she's seen.
She remembers that her father didn't believe her when she ran inside. He told her the planes were probably just flying maneuvers. Then the radio went dead; in its place they heard distant explosions.
When the radio squawked back to life, it announced that the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor, and all military personnel were to report to their posts. George Clay left while Mary Clay took her children — Patricia; Allen, 5; and Sandra, 3 months — and hid in the closet. They could hear the noise, and when they peeked outside they could see soldiers running around with guns, smoke in the sky. It all seemed to go on forever.
At one point, George Clay came back to check on his family. Years later, Patricia learned that he'd stopped by to give her mother a gun. It all seemed so hopeless, and her father was afraid they wouldn't live through the day. He told his wife that if the Japanese invaded the island, she had to shoot the kids, then herself.
That day, 2,400 soldiers, sailors and civilians were killed; 1,110 were injured; and seven of the eight battleships in Pearl Harbor were sunk or badly damaged. The Clay family was herded into underground bunkers, but Mary Clay would not keep her family in that dark hole in the ground.
They stuck it out on the island for another two months. Christmas was a small affair.
"It was very sad," Tsalichis recalls. "It was like everyone was our enemy back then. You were always looking to see who was behind you."
Later that winter the family was evacuated back to the mainland. George Clay, a World War I veteran, was injured in New Guinea. After the war he was sent to Germany, where Patricia remembers huge pits dug in the earth from bombs. It was tough on the family. Americans were not well-liked by the Germans and needed armed escorts everywhere they went.
She went to school in Europe and eventually moved back to the States, where she married a Greek man living in Florida. They settled in Charleston when she was just 23. Today, Tsalichis is widowed and is close to her daughters and various nieces and nephews around town.
At S&S, cook Travass Burroughs was surprised to see Tsalichis having her photo taken, and even more shocked to hear why.
"I didn't know that she was there. She never talks about it," Burroughs said. "I'm going to have to ask her about it."
When she thinks about it now, she says it's still unbelievable some of the things that really happened.
"After a while," she says, "you realize that 'I'm actually a part of history.' "