The Mabley Archive: The nation's mood on the first anniversary of 9-11
Thoughts of the original "date which will live in infamy": and how it compares to today.
President Roosevelt got to his Oval Office at about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 7, 1942, the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He kept appointments during the afternoon, then hosted eight guests at a social dinner.
There was no ceremony or statement by the president.
Around the country, church bells rang and factory whistles blew at 1:30 p.m., the local time of the attack. On the previous day, some Sunday sermons touched on Pearl Harbor and a few radio programs memorialized it.
An artist was commissioned to paint a commemorative picture of a tattered American flag.
That was it. Basically, it was business as usual on the first anniversary. I was busy training naval air cadets in Iowa City, Iowa, and if there was any observance at our Navy base, it escaped me.
Through circumstance I sailed into Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1944. The horrible impact of seeing those wrecked ships probably matched the heart-wrenching sight of ground zero today.
But on shore at Pearl, it was business as usual. I found no evidence of any third anniversary observance.
Roosevelt set the tone. "He always wanted to look forward, not back," said a historian. In those times it was not a custom to mark anniversaries or events every six months or year or five or 10 or 25 years.
The contrast to today's Sept. 11 anniversary is staggering. The president is flying around the nation and will dominate television coverage.
We're in a different world, revolutionized by transportation and communication.
There is no reasonable basis for comparing the impact of Dec. 7, 1941, with Sept. 11, 2001.
The entire nation watched in horror as television brought into our living rooms the carnage as it occurred.
The memory is still vivid for most of us, constantly freshened by the unprecedented television and print coverage of images from a year ago.
The reaction to Sept. 11 was an understandable burst of patriotism.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Americans were told to prepare for sacrifices, starting with an acceleration of the draft.
On Sept. 12 we were told to carry on our normal lives and to go out and spend money to keep the economy healthy. There is no draft, and there was no rush to join the Navy or Army.
In 1941 cities began air raid drills and practiced blackouts. (I remember going to suburban Lansing for a drill. First they cut the power, then sounded the air-raid siren. But the siren didn't sound because the power was off. Lesson 1, siren first, lights second.)
Fear was so widespread on the Pacific coast that Roosevelt signed the infamous Executive Order 9066, which confiscated the homes and businesses of 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent and imprisoned them in a camp in a hot, barren desert for the duration.
Young Japanese men who were in the Army later distinguished themselves as some of the fiercest fighters in the campaigns in Africa and Europe.
Attorney General John Ashcroft's imprisonment of hundreds of residents of Arabian descent, including American citizens, doesn't look so bad when likened to Executive Order 9066.
The war that began Dec. 7, 1941, ended in victory after terrible sacrifices of American men and women. But it ended.
The war that began Sept. 11 continues. The commander-in-chief warns that this war may go on indefinitely.
Times change, technology changes, but human nature stays pretty much the same. We still face an enemy that destroyed the World Trade Center using knives and their own lives as weapons.