- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Not since Japanese dive bombers swooped down on Pearl Harbor in 1941 has the United States suffered such a devastating assault on its own territory.
The bewilderment and anger felt by millions of Americans yesterday rival the shock 60 years ago when the U.S. Pacific fleet was decimated in a daring dawn raid on Pearl Harbor and other U.S. army bases on Oahu island in Hawaii.
"This is our second Pearl Harbor, right here in the nation's capital and New York City," a somber Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said as he stood in a park after his Capitol office building was evacuated.
A World War II veteran in Nashville for a reunion of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier crew was incensed.
"I feel like going to war again. No mercy," said Felix Novelli, a New Yorker with friends who work at the World Trade Center. "We have to come together like '41, go after them."
Like yesterday's aerial assault by unknown terrorists on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Pearl Harbor came as a surprise.
On the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack, which drew the United States into World War II, the Hawaiian naval base was not on a state of high alert. Senior commanders had concluded there was no reason to suspect the Japanese were planning an attack, so anti-aircraft guns were unmanned and, since it was Sunday morning, many crewman were off-duty ashore.
The first wave of almost 200 Japanese airplanes attacked from the clear, blue skies at 7:53 a.m. Two hours later, after the final bombs had been dropped, 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians were dead, with 1,178 wounded.
President Roosevelt dubbed Dec. 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy." The United States declared war on both Japan and Germany the following day.
Most Americans heard about the "sneak" attack via radio bulletins, as popular Sunday afternoon music programs were interrupted. The event prompted a tremendous wave of patriotism, with thousands of young men immediately volunteering for the armed services.
The horrific death toll made Pearl Harbor the single biggest tragedy in American history — until now.
The audacious attack yesterday against the United States by terrorists, who crashed two hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, will eclipse other postwar tragedies, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and President Kennedy's assassination, federal officials predicted.
Hundreds apparently were killed aboard the hijacked airliners that brought down the twin 110-story World Trade Center yesterday, and untold numbers were feared dead in the rubble. Thousands were injured in New York alone.
Continuous live television coverage, somber and commercial-free, brought shocking images of destruction and chaos all day.
Prior to yesterday's attacks, the largest single terrorist attack on American soil had been the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 persons. Initially blamed on Islamic fundamentalists, the assault was found to be the work of political extremist Timothy McVeigh, who was executed this year for the murders.
Since World War II, few events have even come close to the Pearl Harbor's notoriety.
The assassination of Mr. Kennedy in 1963 united the nation in grief and spawned conspiracy theories still discussed decades later.
Television images of the chaotic evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon by helicopter at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 remain in the minds of all who saw them, as do the pictures of students fighting police in anti-war demonstrations a few years earlier.
The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which killed seven astronauts in 1986, was one of the most dramatic images ever shown on TV and tarnished the romantic image of the Space Age.
In 1993, Americans were glued to the news when an FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, led to the deaths of more than 80 people after the camp was set on fire.
Associated Press contributed to this report.


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