Almost every year on Dec. 7 or Dec. 8, I receive a phone
call. Sometimes it's a call thanking me for a story, but most years it's a
reader chewing me out for not including anything in the paper about the 1941
Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unless I planned ahead for a Pearl Harbor story (which gets
harder to come up with every year), all I can do is lamely point out that it’s
mentioned in the “Today in History” feature. The callers are rarely satisfied
with this response.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 "a
date which will live in infamy."
Sadly, as the WWII generation leaves us, and the Japanese
have become allies rather than enemies, the sharp reality of that date has
softened. The date, while still well-known, doesn't carry the vivid power it
held for previous generations.
My dad told me that the lesson to be learned from Pearl
Harbor is one of preparedness. When the country mobilized to fight the Axis
powers, U.S. recruits were forced to march with rifle-shaped wooden boards;
there weren't enough rifles to go around.
As I watched the various 9/11 observances, I couldn’t help
thinking how Sept. 11, 2001 holds a special meaning to a different generation.
Undoubtedly, over time, the horrors and visceral memories so many of us share
will fade, too. Those who didn't experience 9/11 just can't get it.
But it would be especially sad if the overall lesson of 9/11
faded with our memories of the event. As 9/11 grows more distant, we should all
do everything we can to make sure our children and grandchildren know the value
of first-rate intelligence and, as the WWII generation learned the hard way,