We mark this day for those who lived through those days
The day will come when the nation as a whole no longer remembers Dec. 7, 1941, every year. This is happening now, year by year, because what was once so fresh in the nation's recollection gradually becomes distant history.
This will not be an act of disrespect or indifference, but the natural course of things. We'll remember the "zero" anniversaries -- the 80th in 2021, the 90th in 2031 and of course the 100th in 2041. But as we'll lose the live remembrances of those who lived those times, the flesh and blood connections, we'll lose the touch of history.
Already most of those who were in Honolulu then, or in the States hearing the news on the radio, are gone. Most of us born after those days no longer have the connection of a father or grandfather, or uncle or grandmother, to talk about what happened then and what followed in the hards years after.
Last month we marked the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. How many of us even knew the date of that speech (Nov. 19) until the wave of coverage and the battlefield visitations that marked the anniversary? We mark neither the battle nor the speech that memorialized it on a yearly basis.
That's the way eventually it will be with Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7 is writ in stone in our history; history will claim it eventually. The day no doubt will rest in the national subconscious, like the sunken USS Arizona beneath the white memorial in Hawaii, but few will consciously mark the date every year.
We're not there yet, however.
In the news business there's a joke every year about this time -- who's going to make sure we remember Pearl Harbor so we don't get angry calls? Somebody will remember, maybe because they had a father or grandfather or great grandfather at Pearl Harbor, or a family elder who remembered the shock of the news.
Or maybe someone will remember because he visited that powerful memorial on warm, overcast day in Hawaii, and looked into the water at the remains of the Arizona, and read some of names on the wall. The names are so familiar, and the time not so distant.
So in the end we don't do it to avoid angry calls. We do it to remember.
May today be one of peace for the dwindling band of veterans who were there.
BOTTOM LINE: Pearl Harbor is still with us in flesh and blood.