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A day to remember

Does 71 years qualify as a lifetime?

In the United States, it falls short of 78-plus years that is now the nation’s average life expectancy. Nor is it a particularly long span of time when the topic is the history of the human life.

But this particular 31∕2 -score period can be described as a lifetime — there are fewer and fewer people around who lived through an event that changed the course of world history.

We’re talking about Pearl Harbor — Dec. 7, 1941.

It was 71 years ago, today, that the Japanese launched a coordinated attack on the U.S. naval and army military installations in Hawaii, a strike that propelled our country straight into the jaws of World War II.

More than 2,400 Americans died in these surprise attacks and thousand-plus were wounded ... the unusual ratio between deaths and wounds testifies to the ferocity of the attack.

It took less than two hours for the carrier-based Japanese fighters and bombers to sink or damage 21 ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, including some of the Navy’s top of the line battleships — the Arizona, the West Virginia, the Oklahoma, and the California. Also targeted were Navy and Army aircraft parked in various airfields, where 188 planes were destroyed and another 155 damaged.

The country’s hopes of keeping the war at a distance were shattered on that day.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his address to a joint session of Congress, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — The United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

For decades afterward you could hardly find an American who wasn’t able to conjure up just where they were and what they were doing when they heard about that sudden, sickening attack.

Over the course of time, though, the number of those witnesses, be they survivors of the attack or Americans who were going about their business on a quiet Sunday morning, is rapidly dwindling.

But just as those who recall that day from personal experience honor those who perished today, so should the generations of Americans born since.

We must not forget the individuals who died that day, whose lives were cut tragically short. We must not forget how this nation got back up off the floor and provided the leadership for the world against the forces of Japan, Germany and their allies, intent on ruling the world.

The passing of 71 years does not change the meaning of that event ... take the time today to remember.

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