The news which swept the country 74 years ago came from far away Hawaii. Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese and thousands were dead.
Among those was 18 year old Jack Stevens from Kountze who graduated from high school the previous May. He was one of many who died that Sunday morning. His ship the Arizona rests just below the surface and oil still leaks from the vessel. It is a somber event – to look into the still waters and consider the vile deeds which transpired that day.
I often heard my parents’ speak of that Sunday which defined their lives and that of an entire generation. Mama was expecting my brother the next summer. She opted to stay inside and cook one of her tasty meals while Daddy and two men worked hard to dig a well.
The news broke over the radio and Mama went outside to tell Daddy. She knew what it could mean and it sent a chill down her spine. Daddy would want to join up. One of the worker’s – upon hearing the news – raced to the highway and hitched a ride to Beaumont. He was grimy and his clothes dirty but that did not matter. He planned to join up that day.
The next day Roosevelt spoke to Congress and to the world. TVs not yet a reality but the radio which he used so effectively was. The President’s famous sentence, “a date which will live in infamy” has spoken to every American decade after decade. Unfortunately many of the valiant soldiers have passed away.
In a few years every soldier who fought in WWII will become a part of America’s stellar history. Their sacrifice a patchwork of ideals and courage which is seen in the American flag. A new generation has come and the ideas which created unbridled unity during WWII are often lost in the mix of everyday living.
We are 74 years removed from that surprise attack. Seven four years after the American Civil war ended was 1939. Much had changed by 1939. How much more has changed in the fast paced world of technology? It is mind boggling.
We hope to secure a lasting legacy for our ideals. Our parents have passed and we negate their memories to albums, home movies and a recipe or two which Mama managed to write down. We need to do better. We need to honor those whose lives were offered as an enduring sacrifice. Jack Stevens is honored at our library – close to the flag pole.
I think of him – so young, just a baby. He had hopes and dreams and an energy for the future. His hopes died that morning in Hawaii. We must hold dear his memory, his sacrifice and make a promise to ourselves, to each other – that we will not allow the passage of time erode the memories of Pearl Harbor.