- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Nobody was ready for "healing" on December 7, 1942, and "closure" was the last thing anybody wanted.
America, on the first anniversary of that other date that lives in infamy often the benchmark by which September 11 is judged wanted blood and vengeance, without apology.
No flowers, no teddy bears, and no exploration of the national angst. No presidential admonitions to think of Shinto as a religion of peace, no appeals to understand the frustrations that drove the misunderstood Nazis to rape Poland and bomb London.
The front pages of the nation's newspapers were stuffed with news of war: a battle raging in Tunisia, the launch of the USS New Jersey at Philadelphia, and, on the front page of the old Evening Star, a single photographic reminder of the destroyed harbor at Honolulu. On an inside page, Pvt. Joe Lockhard, who had first spotted the incoming Japanese planes at a radar station above Honolulu, was the subject of a small item headlined: "Hero of Navy prefers to forget Pearl Harbor."
"We have to give our time to what's happening now," he said, "and wait for history to catch up with it, when the war is won."
That was the extent of the observance, aside from an account of an air-raid wardens' parade down Georgia Avenue, and the advertised pleas from clothiers and jewelry stores to "Remember Pearl Harbor" and to buy War Bonds, scrimp on gasoline ("Is this trip really necessary?") and save kitchen grease.
The Washington Post had no stories about the anniversary on its front page, though it recounted like other papers around the country neighborhood memorial services, blood drives, ladies' auxiliary luncheons and the hasty weddings of men in uniform and sweet-faced brides.
Grit and gravitas were the order of the day.
"We may stand for a moment in mediation on the courage and sacrifice of those who now, on land, at sea and in the air, hold aloft the flag of the United States of America," the New York Times observed.
In her newspaper column on Dec. 8, 1942, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt told Americans why she opposed the commemoration of Pearl Harbor. "It is not a date for a holiday," she wrote. "It is a date that should make us work."
That was then, in the fashionable phrase of the day, and this is September 11, 2002, and the grandchildren of the World War II generation can afford the indulgence of an extravagantly mawkish anniversary amid what they are told is "war."
In the 60 years since Pearl Harbor, 200 books have been written about that first date to live in infamy. In the year since September 11, more than 400 books have been published. Interpretive TV docudramas include "Relics From the Rubble," "Portraits of Grief" and "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero," a PBS production that included photos of people leaping from the Twin Towers.
The people who study such things scratch their heads. "Why do journalists have this need to one up each other?" asks Warren Watson of the American Press Institute. "Why do we have this anniversary mentality? What would happen if we did nothing at all? That would be a statement in itself."
Times and technology were different, of course, he says. Indeed, the public only knew the real toll of Pearl Harbor when a year later the Navy released numbers of ships sunk and lives lost.
"I have often wondered now the 24-hour media would have treated Antietam," Mr. Watson says of the 1862 Civil War battle that to this morning remains the bloodiest day in American history.
Americans are divided on anniversary coverage: Some say it's a moral duty to relive the attacks through newspaper and television accounts; others find the overkill ghoulish and invasive. Surveys disagree. A Gallup poll predicted that 78 percent of the country plans to watch the TV coverage ; a San Francisco Chronicle poll found only 2 percent of those polled would watch.
"Part of the ritual of life is to look at anniversary dates with reverence, and to be reminded about real events," Mr. Watson said. "But when we see excessive coverage, we know it. We know when the media is playing around the edges and getting off message."
Syracuse University media analyst Robert Thompson compares September 11 anniversary coverage to the Super Bowl, noting it was "a media-declared holiday."
The Americans of that era, now fading swiftly into the unremembered past, had no time for such navel gazing. "We have no instinct for glory," opined a very different New York Times on Dec. 8, 1942. "What we do surely have, collectively, is a determination to put all we possess into this necessary and unpleasant task. Our emotions are deep and not noisily expressed [but] we know that we are destined to play a decisive part not on this continent alone but throughout the world. The knowledge steadies us, and brings us together."


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