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'9-11 will haunt an entire new generation'

'9-11 will haunt an entire new generation'

Author: Martha Groves
Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 8, 2001

Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it a "date which will five in infamy", words that resonate even now for those who remember the bombing of Pearl Harbour 60 years ago.

But with those ranks rapidly dwindling, and with the grim events of Sept. 11 now seared into the consciousness of a new generation, many survivors of the Japanese attack are wondering: After they're gone, will Dec. 7, 1941, also be a date that will live in memory?

Herbert Franck's recall of that sunny day on Oahu is as vivid as if, he were still a 22-year-old aviation machinist mate first class. Franck was finishing breakfast when he detected the rumble of unfamiliar engines overhead. He and his navy buddies rushed out of the mess hall to see bombs hurtling down.

"I was very frustrated. I didn't have any guns," said Franck, now 82. "The only thing I had in my hand was a breakfast roll, which, I threw at the airplane."

The Coronado resident joined hundreds of fellow members of the Pearl Harbour Survivors Assn. in Hawaii on Friday. Like others who endured the event that changed the world, he has made it part of his life's mission to keep the date alive.

It can be a discouraging task, Franck said, relating a conversation he had recently with a high school senior. "Do you know Pearl Harbour?" Franck asked the boy.

"No, who's she?"

Now comes Sept. 11, a new generation's date of infamy, the date of the first significant attack on the U.S. mainland by an outside enemy since the War of 1812.

As for whether Sept. 11 will continue to stir hearts 60 years from now, two camps are emerging. One contends that the aftermath of Sept. 11 will not transform society as dramatically as did Dec. 7, 1941.

The other suggests that the date will endure. There is the magnitude of the Sept. 11 terrorist assault: an estimated 3,300 people killed, an economy wounded. That compares with the 2,400 or so who died at Pearl Harbour.

Moreover, "Sept. 11" has become synonymous with the event, and the label is often rendered more cryptically as 911, which also happens to be the national SOS code.

Joseph B. Hellige, a USC psychology professor and specialist in memory, said he could foresee when a chapter in a history textbook would be titled 'Sept. 11, 2001' akin to 'The Bombing of Pearl Harbour'.

"I suspect that that date will be remembered far better and far longer and by more subsequent generations than all the other dates," Mr Hellige said. "Nobody ever referred to Pearl Harbour as Dec. 7. We never referred to the Kennedy assassination as Nov. 22."

For each generation, there is a date that becomes etched, seemingly indelibly, in the memory of everyone old enough to be aware. In the 1980s, it was the Challenger space shuttle explosion on Jan. 28, 1986.

But with the passage of time, even destiny-altering dates have a habit of sliding away as the shock subsides and people reflect on the events' significance.

In earlier times, most youngsters could rattle off when the battles of Gettysburg and Antietam were fought and the day Abraham Lincoln was shot - dates that have faded into the footnotes of history for all but a few exacting students.

July 4th retains its power, of course, but some holidays intended to commemorate significant events are celebrated more as three-day weekends. Even the names have changed. Students of World War I may recall that Veterans Day was once Armistice Day, but who remembers that Memorial Day was once observed as Decoration Day?

But to many historians, and certainly to its survivors, Pearl Harbour is unique.

"We will forever remember it as inaugurating American participation in the greatest event of the 20th century: World War II," said David M. Kennedy, a Stanford history professor and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.

"There's no other candidate for an event as sweepingly transformative." World War II claimed 50 million lives and toppled fascism. It secured America's claim as a world leader, but also inaugurated a 45-year Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

"Those are just enormous events," Kennedi said. "It's difficult to see that the crisis that is now upon us will have that magnitude and legacy." Dec. 7, 1941, is one of those "dates that should be part of our national vocabulary," agreed Steve Gillon, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma and a consultant for the History Channel. (LAT-WP Svc)
 


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