Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I’ll bet half the people reading this column have little idea what that means. It marks the 75th anniversary of the devastating attack on our naval fleet stationed in Hawaii that catapulted us into World War II.
December 7, 1941 is, to those alive at that time, what September 11, 2001 is to us. On that date, Japanese planes swarmed across the harbor and bombarded the fleet, sinking or seriously damaging eight of our battleships and killing 2,388 Americans. A day later, we declared war against our mortal enemies of that era, Japan and Germany.
Those who fought and died in that war would be startled to know those two nations are now among our closest allies. Imagine Iran and North Korea being our nation’s besties 75 years from today.
In the 1990’s I spent a week in Honolulu, and felt a pull to visit Pearl Harbor. I boarded the ferry that glided me across the water to the USS Arizona Memorial site, and noticed that one of the tour guides was an older gentleman who was a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack__an eyewitness to history.
He cautioned us that the memorial was “not just another tourist attraction” and to be respectful, delivering first-hand testimony to what happened the morning of what President Franklyn D. Roosevelt called “A day which will live in infamy.”
Tourists took photos of the memorial, which sits atop the sunken battleship Arizona, the gravesite of about 900 service veterans still entombed in its wreckage.
I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the tourists were Japanese.
After watching the smiling group snap their pictures, I asked the veteran if this bothered him.
He paused a moment, his eyes staring into the distance. “No, it wasn’t them,” he replied. “Maybe their fathers, their grandfathers, but not them. You have to move forward, move on, and not blame the innocent.”
Forgiveness and compassion. We could use a large helping of that in 2016.
As for the brave U.S. servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms of speech, the press, petition, assembly and religious expression on that mournful day, let’s make certain that they are never forgotten.