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A day that must still live ‘in infamy’

Published: 12:38PM December 6th, 2012

Seventy-one years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told America the day would “live in infamy” that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, precipitating our entry into World War II. Nearly 1,200 U.S. service members died that day.

There has been relatively little notice of Dec. 7 this year. As members of that “greatest generation” who fought in World War II pass away, and we who were raised by them age, I fear we’re paying less attention to today’s milestone anniversary.

A few weeks ago, Nov. 22 came and went, the day in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Again, little mention beyond the History Channel.

I understand time moves on and new dates join the ones we memorized in school. Every generation has its seminal events. As an aging Baby Boomer, I’ve made my peace with sharing with a Generation X member that black day when the nation mourned its fallen president, or explaining how the Vietnam War seeped into every corner of our consciousness — whether we fought it or protested it.

But I was not ready for Sept. 11. Eleven years after the costliest terrorist attack in our history, we seem to have moved on from what we once called a war on terrorism. Our observances have become less coordinated, more diffused. It surprised me that an event so recent had already begun to fade into history for some Americans.

I thought most of us still vividly remember the ash, rubble and 3,000 innocent lives lost on 9/11. We were drawn irresistibly to our televisions. We donated money, prayed together and held candlelight vigils.

I understand it’s hard to empathize with those who long ago heard Roosevelt’s address in 1941 or watched LBJ take the oath of office in 1963. But how could we begin to forget so soon? Those who hate us have not forgotten.

Our volunteer military, 1 percent of the nation, still fights, but if the force is to carry out the nation’s will, service members must know its people are behind them. That knowledge starts with commemoration of the events that brought us to battle.

Memories fade. Life moves on.

But we ignore these bitter anniversaries at our peril.