Monday, December 7, 2009
pearl harbor day 2009
it has been sixty-eight years since the japanese attacked pearl harbor. many, many years before i was born, before my parents were even born. and yet it was a vital day in the history of our nation.
my great-grandfather served in world war II. he was drafted, as an engineer to build bridges, and left his wife and children (including my grandfather) at home. in december of 1942, my great-grandfather was one of the 700 soldiers that was carried across the atlantic on the queen mary.
i was in third grade when my great-grandfather died, and i have very few memories of him. about a year before he passed, my family took a vacation to california and visited the queen mary in long beach. while there, my dad related the few stories he knew about my great-grandfather. when we returned i asked him about it as well. my grandfather rarely spoke about the war, as many soldiers don't. it was a terrifying and horrific experience. i do vaguely remember him talking a little to me about his trip on the queen mary. one of my most vivid memories of him, however, was only a few months before his death.
it was a snowy december day in 1993. it happened to be the first sunday of the month, which in the LDS church is fast and testimony meeting. members of the congregation are invited to bear their testimonies at the pulpit. by this time my grandfather was 81 years old and had difficulty walking on his own. as far as i could remember my grandfather had never gotten up to bear his testimony. but on this day, he did.
he slowly made his way up the aisle leaning heavily on his cane. when he came to the few stairs up to the pulpit he needed the assistance of our bishop and one of his counselors. when he reached the pulpit, looking frail and worn out, it seemed the entire congregation was silent. my great-grandfather began to cry. and then he spoke. he started to speak of a cold december day, exactly fifty-two years before, on december 7, 1941. pearl harbor. for him, it was a day he could never forget. the day more than two-thousand people were massacred. he spoke of his sadness for that day in 1941, and even more so for that day in 1993, when very few remembered, and no one spoke, about pearl harbor. i wish so badly that i could remember his exact words. all i have is that image in my head, watching him walk to the front of the church, and seeing him cry. at seven years old i did not understand.
several times my husband has said to me that september 11, 2001 is our generation's pearl harbor. i will never understand the fear, the sadness, the uncertainty, the anger that accompanied that day in 1941. i do, however, understand the fear, the sadness, the uncertainty, the anger that accompanied 9/11.
and now, today, on december 7th, 2009, i do not remember from experience, but i remember in my heart.