Our generation associates the phrase “never forget” with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We want future generations to always remember the tragedy and the heroism that took place that day.
Seventy eight years ago, Saturday, Dec. 7, 1941, was another seminal moment in American history. The phrase most associated with it? “A date which will live in infamy.”
Most of us know the basic facts behind the attack on Pearl Harbor. More than 2,400 Americans were killed, and more than 1,100 wounded. The United States declared war on Japan the next day, and soon after was fighting World War II.
But to truly remember, we must go beyond historical facts. Our memories of 9/11, the reasons we won’t forget, aren’t of statistics. They are of people, the absolute horror we witnessed, heroic sacrifices and enduring human spirit.
Time is claiming more members of what journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed “the Greatest Generation,” those who lived through the Great Depression and won World War II. When they pass, we lose that human, first-person connection to Pearl Harbor. We lose those voices that extend the meaning of the day well past a few pages of facts in a history book.
But we cannot lose the real reasons that, like 9/11, we must never forget Dec. 7, 1941. We must continue to honor the brave men and women who seven decades ago sacrificed so much. We must tell their stories to future generations so that they, too, can understand the horror, shock, grief and heroism of that date, and the importance of never forgetting.
It’s our duty, to those who came before us and those who will come after, to never forget Pearl Harbor.