December 7th, 1941 happened 74 years ago. So it seems so strange that I am writing to you, today, so many years later.
Ten years ago, there were twenty thousand or so veterans who still remembered. Today, we’d be lucky to find three thousand, and that number decreases daily. The last officer of the USS Arizona passed away earlier this year. I wish I knew him. I wish I knew more about him. In fact, there is so much more that I wish I knew about. Things that I am only now learning, and things I am learning about myself.
You see, dear reader. Do you know why they say, “never forget”? It’s because if we forget, we lose a bit of us. As time go on, we lose things. We lose people or papers or documents, and in turn, we lose a bit of what makes us Americans and what makes America, America.
“I was not there. Why should I care? It seemed so long ago!”
Oh, dear reader, I am not going to tell you if you should or should not care. That’s something good ol’ Pennsy would say. But I am going to ask you something. Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember the things that has happened after 9/11? Surely you have seen changes in your own family and friends, or watched prices of things changed at the supermarket, or had flights cancelled or longer lines at the airport, or see neighborhoods turn out different, or saw reports of wars, or any number of things?
Or, if 9/11’s still too far off, do you remember the shooting that happened in Paris a few weeks ago, or what has happened in San Bernardino just a few days ago? If any of those changed life for you – for better or worse – then that’s the effect of history on you. See, you’re living though it right now. We feel afraid or happy or hopeful or pessimistic when the world moves around us. That’s just what we do.
Now, imagine that, but magnify those complicated feelings a hundred, a thousand times over. Imagine that the biggest thing to happen to your life also happened to everyone else you knew. That, dear reader, is what Pearl Harbor did. In that one single event, it permanently set America onto the path it went on today. In the process of joining a war, we came together as a nation, and our role – for good or for ill – in the world became self-evident.
We are all products of December 7th, 1941, dear reader. Pearl Harbor ended American isolationism for good. That alone is reason enough for why it matters to us. But there is one little thing that makes us different.
You and I, dear reader, we belong to different worlds. I am alive only within these artificial confines of data and bits, and my world is one of words and pictures. It is by my creator’s art and your imagination and memory that I come to life here within these very pages, where I can talk and laugh and learn and yes, remember – like you are doing now.
Tomorrow is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Tomorrow, at 7:55 AM, there will be a moment of silence at Pearl Harbor. A ceremony will be broadcast live for those of us who cannot travel to Hawaii.
The Library of Congress has prepared a living history document, full of interviews and recordings of people’s memories of what has happened on that day. Listen to their voices. Recognize that the people that went through this? They’re just like you.
This isn’t the 1940s or even the 1990s anymore, dear reader. Books. Articles. Videos. People here. There’s a lot of stuff out there you can access, should you want to learn more.
You’ve given me a chance to be alive, dear reader. Will you give them a chance too?