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On a day of celebration, Pearl Harbor's lessons still important

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: More than seven decades ago, a surprise attack on Hawaii plunged the U.S. into World War II

Today is a day of celebration in metro Albany, and rightly so. The Christmas season, shortened by a late Thanksgiving, is bearing down on us.

This just may be the busiest, most celebratory Saturday of the year, in fact, with parades in Albany this evening and this morning in Leesburg, big breakfasts at Lee County High School and Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albany, the annual Jingle Bell Jog, a post-parade festival in Leesburg, two holiday performances by the Albany Symphony Orchestra and Mithril at Darton State College, and a ballet performance of “Peter Pan” at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.

In a word … whew!

And while this is certainly a day to celebrate the advent of the Christmas season and its calling for peace on Earth, it is also a day when, at least for a few moments, we should stop and bow our heads or have a moment of silence in remembrance of another Dec. 7 more than seven decades ago. It was one that was anything but festive.

It was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, one that, in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, would forever live in infamy.

And so it has.

It was the day that America lost a degree of innocence and security, not unlike the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. The war had been raging “over there.”But when Japanese naval and air forces launched a surprise early morning attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Oahu, then a U.S. territory, in the span of 90 minutes 2,390 Americans were killed, the Pacific Fleet was decimated and the United States was forced into World War II. A dozen U.S. warships were sunken or damaged, 323 U.S. aircraft were destroyed and another 1,178 Americans were injured.

Today, we have fewer and fewer Americans who remember that fateful day 72 years ago. Those who do are in their 80s and 90s, but their memories are still vivid, their stories well worth listening to.

Pearl Harbor was a lesson that the great oceans that separated us from the rest of the world could no longer insulate the United States from dangers and attacks. It was a reminder that to keep this great experiment in democracy safe, we must remain ever vigilant of those who would take our freedom away from us. And it is a stark reminder of what the cost of protecting our way of life can be.

We owe a great deal of gratitude to those men and women who comprise the Greatest Generation, the ones who faced tyrants and evil and turned them back. These and those who have followed them in the wearing of our nation’s military uniforms are the reason that we can, on this Saturday, celebrate the holiday season.

This is, after all, a day for joy. But it is also a day to be reminded to never forget.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board