Today, Thursday, is the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the “Date of Infamy” that brought our country into World War II.
For many folks, December 7 is a day of remembrance among many similar days of remembrance. The majority of us weren’t around 76 years ago and the overwhelming majority of us weren’t even born before the shooting part of war ended on Aug. 14, 1945, but many of us learned about the war from our parents, or our grandparents, or our great-grandparents, many of whom are no longer with us.
So, Pearl Harbor Day, as it has become to be known, is still a significant date, one worth taking a few minutes to reflect upon, not just what happened back then, but obviously what has gone on since – even as the event itself fades farther and farther into the rearview mirror of history.
When the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred in 2001, there were many comparisons to Pearl Harbor. Perhaps it’s worth noting that more people died in the 2001 attacks than at Pearl Harbor, about 2,975 compared to just over 2,400 (Americans only at Pearl Harbor). The people who died both days woke up never thinking they wouldn’t be seeing another. Every day is gift, as our late Harford County Councilwoman Veronica Chenowith often said, but it is still difficult to come to terms with people being taken from us at the hands of other people.
Thinking of 9/11 in terms of being a Pearl Harbor-like experience certainly has its parallels. The terrorist attacks got our country embroiled in another war of a different kind – if there can be such a thing. This one has lasted longer than World War II by a factor of three and while it hasn’t yet killed tens of millions and displaced tens of millions more, it’s certainly no less insidious, frightening or draining, economically and mentally.
Pearl Harbor Day falls during what for many of us is the most joyous time of the year, a time when “peace to all mankind” ought to be more than a Bible verse or an abstraction brought out for the particular season.
Unfortunately, another 76 years has shown it’s still just that.