Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pear Harbor and 9/11

Sept. 11 is never far from my mind, but on Dec. 7 I think it is proper to reflect on that attack and the interesting similarities shared by the two tragedies.

I'm a military buff. I've read a number of books on Pearl Harbor. I know all the facts and figures of what happened when the Japanese attacked. What I always found curious, and somewhat hard to believe, were the rumors that spread during the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Reports had San Francisco and Los Angeles being bombed, Japanese troops landing on Ohau, fifth columnists sabotaging NY City's water supply and on and on. I always thought it amusing that the people in 1941 were so naive. With hindsight and history to support us we now know the Japanese were not capable of these rumored acts. What they were capable of was bad enough. In six months the Japanese overran the vast majority of the Pacific and Far East defeating everyone in their way.

In the days that followed Sept. 11 I thought about what happened in 1941 and I realized that I had witnessed, and to a small extent participated, in exactly the same type of disaster inspired hysteria.

As I watched the WTC burn and finally fall from my office window with my co-workers, we heard a pretty steady stream of alleged other attacks. The Sears Tower in Chicago had been hit. A car bomb hit the Department of State, the Air Force had shot down a plane heading to Chicago, etc.

With F-15s patrolling the NY sky, a sight I will always remember, each of these attacks seemed not only plausible, but probable. I fully expected something else to happen in NY. After all, an enemy capable of striking twice in 30 minutes surely would follow up that advantage and go for a knockout blow. Maybe a nuke was planted somewhere in the city waiting to go off.

After I had calmed down and had time to think about what I had just experienced I had a great deal more sympathy for my countrymen of 1941. Fear and living with the unknown creates an environment where anything is possible.

Hopefully, in 64 years when bin Laden has long been captured and executed, when al Queda is nothing more then another topic for The History Channel to dwell on those looking back at this period in history will be more forgiving then I was concerning those who endured Pearl Harbor.

(For Tom "Chip" Holihan, Firefighter, Engine 6)


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