Yahoo News asked Americans deeply impacted by the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attacks to share how their families were affected in the decades since. Here's one story.
Helen, 79, knows it's a moment she'll never forget. She was just a child then, but informs me that everyone old enough to remember it know where they were on December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor.
Helen lived in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. She lived in a three-bedroom house with her Irish-American family - her parents, grandparents. and five siblings. This was a typical living situation for the era, she informs me.
While this is very different from my childhood experience, other things she says seem very familiar, such as her initial reaction to the news about the Pearl Harbor attack.
"We didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was," she said. "Most Americans didn't know. I just worried about all those men…because they talked about 'now we go to war' because it was a sneak attack."
My grandmother says those last two words with a venom that time hasn't assuaged. The obvious parallels to Sept. 11, 2001 cross my mind as I recall my college years, remembering exactly where I was, the fair weather, and the frequent presence of military aircraft over my Maryland college campus after the second plane hit the towers.
Many of the adults in her life had an idea of what the attack meant: war. Helen describes her mother's reaction.
"She didn't think my dad would go because he had six children-Peggy was an infant."
My great-grandfather joined over 325,000 other Americans in the SeaBees, a construction force in the Navy responsible for building airstrips, roadways and other necessities, primarily in the Pacific region. Additionally, my grandmother recalls her brother, uncle, and great uncle joining the Navy. She also had a cousin who joined the Army.
My grandmother describes how her daily life changed once the war effort was underway.
"Food was rationed. You had coupons when you wanted to buy things. You couldn't get butter - that's when they started making Oleo and margarine."
Helen says some aspects of her life retained normalcy.
"When you're nine years old, life revolves around you. [But] we had blackouts and you had to have black curtains in your house so that no lights would show through and they had air raid drills."
There was a change for her in parochial school as the nuns conformed to rationing requirements and instituted new habits.
"They prayed for the soldiers and they'd make up packages of goodies to send to the soldiers," she says.
Despite the 71 years that have passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor, she recalls the day with a solemn, sometimes angry tone, noting how my aunt's Japanese-American mother-in-law (an American citizen) was put into camps with her entire family.
The entire recollection is sad, but a necessary and cathartic one to tell-and to hear.
- Politics & Government
- the attack on Pearl Harbor