Just one day after the Empire of Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, Franklin D. Roosevelt stood before a joint session of congress and delivered a speech on December 8, 1941 that would come to be one of the most infamous in our nation’s history. At the outset of that seven minute message to the nation President Roosevelt referred to December 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy.” Today, December 7, 2016, 75-years later, those words bounce around my mind as I contemplate the sacrifice of the 2,403 killed and 1,178 wounded, Sailors, Marines and civilians.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to spend a day flying above and walking around the base at Pearl Harbor, to see what those words and the sacrifice associated with them truly meant. I still cannot explain the type of catharsis that occurs when you visit a place that you have studied for most of your most of your life. For me it was truly profound. I found myself feeling some pretty raw emotions about an event in time that I had always chalked up to being terribly tragic, but something that I ultimately couldn’t relate to. As I stood on the deck of the USS Arizona memorial and watched drops of the Bunker-C oil float to the surface every few seconds from the ship below my imagination took over. With each drop that would spread out into a dizzying rainbow that lasted only a few moments before it became part of the harbor and disappeared I could feel the same breezes coming from the mountains to the west that they did on that morning, I could smell the odor of the fuel oil released oil that they did, and I could feel the same rays of sunshine on my face. In that moment the gravity, and magnitude of what happened came over me in a wave. I had never felt this way visiting a historic site before, and I’m not sure I ever will again, but for on brief moment I’m thankful to have fully appreciated what those Sailors, Marines, and civilians gave up that morning 75-years ago.