Staff column: The day that changed America's world
Most people probably went about their business yesterday like it was any other day on the calendar. And the farther we get away from Dec. 7, 1941 that is likely to happen more and more.
The people who lived through that day as cognizant adults will always remember it, much like younger generations remember Nov. 22, 1963 (John F. Kennedy's assassination), Jan. 28, 1986 (Challenger Space Shuttle explosion) or Sept. 11, 2001. Note that I spelled out the first two but not the last one, because like that Dec. 7 date it was a universal experience.
But if there is a day that defines a generation, the group of people most of us call the greatest generation, that is the day. You would think we would be more prone to associate those who were there when VE Day took place (May 8, 1945) or VJ Day (August 14, 1945) happened. That was the culmination of a war in which the greatest generation saved the world from tyranny. But instead we mark the day when a dastardly sneak attack took place on Pearl Harbor. That's probably because of the shock that the event gave the people of the United States. For 200 years we had been protected by vast oceans from those that would invade; now the Japanese Empire was at the door and no one knew what they would do or if the west coast could even fend off an attack if it happened.
Now the actual memories of that day reside only in the minds of citizens over 75 years old. And for those that faced the brunt of the attacks, ramifications are all over 80. Based on figures of induction ages in 1941, the youngest any U.S. citizen at the time could be that actually fought in World War II and is alive today would put them at the age of 84. Some, however, slipped into the service at a bit younger age so we could go down to 83 or maybe even 82.
Each day we lose the cogent memories of that day as our elderly citizens and veterans pass away. But based on surveys of people younger than 40, many can't even tell interviewers between what years World War II was fought, nor whom the United States was fighting at the time.
It is a sad commentary that so many gave their lives and everything they loved so a group of people years later could forget about what they did.
Time does heal all: but it also hurts those that deserve it the least.