Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The Value of Pausing to Remember
Every year on December 7, Americans are reminded of the "date which will live in infamy"—Franklin D. Roosevelt's rousing call to action following the attack on Pearl Harbor. And indeed, the date injected a profound shock into the nation's consciousness. In the aftermath, the Roosevelt appeal to patriotism in the face of "innocence violated" fueled the intentions of many American young men, some still in high school, who signed up to do their duty at the first possible moment.
Among those many Americans was my father-in-law, Frank Stevens. The Pearl Harbor attack was most likely the impetus causing him, barely turned seventeen, to drop out of high school and join the Navy the following February. Now, many years removed from the devastation, our family has been able to follow his experiences via the letters he wrote home—letters which I shared here at A Family Tapestry beginning with this post in 2011.
The mood is quite different this December 7. Seventy five years removed from the shock and confusion—not to mention, the devastating loss of thirty five hundred either killed or wounded in the attacks—the day carries with it a poignant reminder that this 75th Commemoration will likely be the last commemorative for the event attended by those who actually survived the Pearl Harbor attack. The youngest of those present at the military installation during that 1941 attack would now be in their nineties. Many of the survivors are now gone.
It didn't take much to see, in the letters of one man serving in the war into which this attack launched our nation, the intense effect exerted upon those who stepped up to fight the battles following this historic day. At this far-removed anniversary date, even those grateful for their service may no longer be with us. But that shouldn't matter. Though hardly a soul remains who shuddered through those dark days, it will do us all well to consider what we can learn from history. The stories of those who went through that dark time can still inform us, advise us, warn us.
Above: Photograph of the attack on Pearl Harbor, taken from the vantage point of a Japanese plane approaching Ford Island, looking toward the east; courtesy United States Naval History and Heritage Command via Wikipedia; in the public domain.