I was walking from an early lecture at Ballentine Hall to my next class (sports history, as I recall) at the Student Recreation Sports Center. I want to say it was a sunny day, but it was fall in Bloomington, Indiana, so it was cool.
As I walked in to the SRSC, I saw dozens (maybe more than a hundred) fellow students and staff members huddled around a pair of televisions. Many were sitting on the floor, all watching on as America changed forever. I was befuddled, scared and felt history being written in front of me.
That was September 11, 2001. I can only imagine a similar scene 60 years earlier for folks huddling around the nearest radio to hear the bulletin that a foreign power had struck on our soil, propelling us into the Second World War.
A generation that fights in this era of terror will tell its stories in the decades to come. I watched in shock and awe on my 21st birthday as Baghdad was bombed, knowing my dad was in the skies above. No matter your age, you'll take vivid remembrances of 9/11 and its aftermath with you for the rest of your days. Those tales will roll off your tongue at the simplest of questions from the next generation, the one that was born unknowingly into a much more complicated world.
But let's not forget that 67 years ago, our world had changed forever, too. That great generation around then is growing increasingly silent thanks to the inevitability of time. As long as they are still around, we should listen to their tales, the ones that roll off their tongue of a day their world became complicated, and an aftermath that matured our young country and its citizenry.
Pearl Harbor Day was once remembered with the same fervor as 9/11 is now. One wonders how the more recent attack will be treated decades from now.
I've put a portion of the speech President Roosevelt delivered the day after the attack below. If you need any reminder of the significance of that event, you'll find it in the irony that these very words could have easily been spoken in 2001.
"As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
"Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
"I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
"Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
"With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God."
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 8, 1941