PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- As crew members lined the edge of the Navy guided-missile destroyer, the ship's whistle sounded. It was 7:55 a.m., the exact time the Japanese began bombing Pearl Harbor 71 years earlier.

Friday's moment of silence was part of the commemoration that drew some 2,000 people to Pearl Harbor – and many more to events around the country – to mark the anniversary of the surprise attack that killed thousands of people and launched the United States into World War II.

Among them were about 30 survivors, many using walkers and canes.

Edwin Schuler, of San Jose, Calif., said he remembered going up to the bridge of his ship, the USS Phoenix, to read a book on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in 1941 when he saw planes dropping bombs.

"I thought: `Whoa, they're using big practice bombs.' I didn't know," said Schuler, 91.

Schuler said he's returned for the annual ceremony about 30 times because it's important to spread the message of remembering Pearl Harbor.

Ewalt Shatz, 89, said returning to Pearl Harbor "keeps the spirit going, the remembering of what can happen."

Shatz, who lives in Riverside, Calif., was on board the USS Patterson. His more experienced shipmates were down below putting a boiler back together so Shatz found himself manning a 50-caliber machine gun for the first time. The Navy credited him with shooting a Japanese plane.

"That was some good shooting," said U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Cecil Haney who recounted Shatz' experience in the keynote address. "Thank you for your courage and tenacity – our nation is truly grateful."

The start of the moment of silence was sounded by the USS Michael Murphy, a recently christened ship named after a Pearl Harbor-based Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan.

The guided-missile destroyer floated in the harbor where the USS Arizona and USS Utah sank in the attack and still lie. Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighter jets flew overhead in a special "missing man" formation to break the silence.

"Let us remember that this is where it all began. Let us remember that the arc of history was bent at this place 71 years ago today and a generation of young men and women reached deep and rose up to lead our nation to victory," Rhea Suh, Interior Department assistant secretary, told the crowd. "Let us remember and be forever grateful for all of their sacrifices."

The Navy and National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department, hosted the ceremonies held in remembrance of the 2,390 service members and 49 civilians killed in the attack.

Friday's event gave special recognition to members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who flew noncombat missions during World War II, and to Ray Emory, a 91-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who has pushed to identify the remains of unknown servicemen.

The ceremony also included a Hawaiian blessing, songs played by the U.S. Pacific Fleet band and a rifle salute from the U.S. Marine Corps. An F-22 fighter jet used in the flyover later scraped its tail on a runway while landing about 90 minutes after the ceremony.

President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans.

"Today, we pay solemn tribute to America's sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice at Oahu," Obama said in a statement. "As we do, let us also reaffirm that their legacy will always burn bright – whether in the memory of those who knew them, the spirit of service that guides our men and women in uniform today, or the heart of the country they kept strong and free."

Online, Pearl Harbor became a popular topic on Facebook and other social networks, trending worldwide on Twitter and Google Plus as people marked the anniversary with status updates, personal stories of family and photos.

Daniel Inouye, Hawaii's senior U.S. senator and a member of an Army unit of Japanese-Americans who volunteered to fight in World War II, said the Pearl Harbor attack evoked fierce patriotism.

"Our way of life has always, and will always be, protected and preserved by volunteers willing to give their lives for what we believe in," the Democrat said.

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  • Pearl Harbor

    FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, sailors on a small boat rescue a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

  • FILE - This Dec. 7, 1941 image shows a Japanese Navy aerial view of smoking U.S. ships during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Japanese Navy)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, the destroyer USS Shaw explodes after being hit during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, a Japanese plane goes into its last dive as it heads toward the ground in flames after it was hit by Naval anti-aircraft fire during a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, American ships burn during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

  • USS Arizona

    FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sinks during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP File Photo)

  • FILE - This Dec. 7, 1941 image provided by the U.S. War Department made from a Japanese newsreel shows Japanese planes over Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/U.S. War Department)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors stand among wrecked airplanes at Ford Island Naval Air Station as they watch the explosion of the USS Shaw in the background, during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

  • FILE - in this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, the battleship USS West Virginia, center, begins to sink after suffering heavy damage, while the USS Maryland, left, is still afloat in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The capsized USS Oklahoma is at right. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, File)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, officers' wives head to their quarters after investigating the sound of an explosion and seeing smoke in distance in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The two heard neighbor Mary Naiden, then an Army hostess who took this picture, exclaim "There are red circles on those planes overhead. They are Japanese!" (AP Photo/Mary Naiden)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, people buy newspapers reporting the Japanese attack on U.S. bases in the Pacific Ocean, at Times Square in New York. (AP Photo/Robert Kradin)

  • Franklin Roosevelet

    FILE - In this Dec. 8, 1941 file photo, President Franklin Roosevelt speaks to a joint session of Congress in Washington after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

  • Pearl Harbor survivor Daniel Fruchter, of Eastchester, N.Y., salutes members of a color guard from his wheelchair during a visit at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, before ceremonies commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Pearl Harbor survivor Daniel Fruchter, of Eastchester, N.Y., salutes members of the color guard during a visit before ceremonies at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. in New York, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Clark Simmons, Aaron Cahbin, Armando Chick Galella, Chaplin William Kalaidjain, Daniel Fruchter

    Pearl Harbor survivors, from left, Clark Simmons, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Aaron Cahbin, of Bayside, N.Y.; Armando Chick Galella, of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; Chaplin William Kalaidjain, and Daniel Fruchter, of Eastchester, N.Y., salute during ceremonies at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. in New York, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Armando Chick Galella

    Pearl Harbor survivor Armando Chick Galella, right, age 91, of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., tosses a wreath into the Hudson River during ceremonies at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. in New York, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Clark Simmons, Aaron Cahbin, Armando Chick Galella, Chaplin William Kalaidjain

    Pearl Harbor survivors, from left, Clark Simmons, of Brooklyn, NY; Aaron Cahbin, of Bayside, NY; Armando Chick Galella, of Sleepy Hollow, NY; and Chaplin William Kalaidjain, salute during ceremonies at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. in New York, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Jim Mullarkey

    Jim Mullarkey, state commander of the New York Catholic War Veterans of the United States, warms up with his bugle before ceremonies at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. in New York, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Clark Simmons, Aaron Cahbin, Armando Chick Galella, Chaplin William Kalaidjain, Daniel Fruchter

    Pearl Harbor survivors, from left, Clark Simmons, of Brooklyn, NY; Aaron Cahbin, of Bayside, NY; Armando Chick Galella, of Sleepy Hollow, NY; Chaplin William Kalaidjain, and Daniel Fruchter, of Eastchester, NY, listen to ceremonies at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. in New York, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Many of the Pearl Harbor survivors share memories before the start of the Commemoration of the 71st Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Many of the Pearl Harbor Veterans gathered at the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument remembering the 71th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

  • Pearl Harbor survivor Sam Clower, left, of Sacramento, Calif. and Ab Brum, right, , retired United States Army Special Forces, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, share memories of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Many of the Pearl Harbor Veterans gathered at the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument remembering the 71th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

  • Pearl Harbor survivor Tom Berg, of Port Townsen, Wash., a sailor on the USS Tennessee, signs his autograph for an admirer Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Many of the Pearl Harbor Veterans gathered at the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument remembering the 71th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)