Obviously I wasn’t there on December 7th, 1941 so I can’t remember the attack. I can watch video. I can talk to some of the remaining eye witnesses, there are a few still around. 1941 is a different world, a past that seems foreign and strange to modern eyes. Even though I was born only 22 years after the attack, I’ve lived more than twice that number of years since and with each decade 1941 moves further into the dusty past.
My parents were both alive and had direct memories of WWII. I grew up listening to stories of the time from my parents and grandparents. Being able to talk to living people that experienced the event made it seem more recent and alive. Succeeding generations don’t have that first hand relationship with the war. To them it really is history, no more alive than The Great War or The War Of Northern Aggression is to me.
I imagine that hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor was much like watching the attack on the World Trade Center sixty years later. There are parallels. The conflict that became known as WWII had been going on since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Our current war on terror has been going on since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Both attacks had almost a decade of warning signs that were mostly ignored. Distance, however, can bring clarity to those willing to look. We know far more about the causes and events of WWII than the participants did at the time. Our descendants will know more about the War On Terror than we do today.
The reason we need to remember Pearl Harbor isn’t for the attack itself, but it’s place in the order of events. Pearl Harbor wasn’t a beginning any more than 9/11 was. It was just the point where we could no longer ignore events in the world. History has a way of forcing you to participate whether you want to or not.
UPDATE: No 12/7/41 wasn’t about a programming language. (changed all references of Perl to Pearl. I’m such a dork.)