07 December 2011

70 Years and Counting

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941 was, of course, the "day that will live in infamy," and the day that defined a generation. And yet, 70 years later, it seems almost forgotten. Most of the news coverage this year has focused on the dwindling numbers of veterans who were there that day. The survivors association, which had 28,000 members when it was founded in 1958, will disband at the end of the year as the passing of time has virtually extinguished its membership (read more here). To me, even more depressing than the passing of the veterans is the thought that they take with them the memory of the tragic event that changed the course of history for America and for millions of people. In a few years time, the day will only live on in stories and history books. Of course, that is the natural order of things, but I hope that the lessons that we learned as a nation and the examples of courage and sacrifice given us by The Greatest Generation do not fade from our collective memory as quickly as the events of war. 

I am thankful that I grew up with grandparents who could tell me their first hand accounts of December 7, 1941 and the subsequent war. However, my children won't get to hear the stories their great-grandparents lived. They will, however, get to see the photos.

 Like these that captured a day of infamy for the world to see:

Sailors in a motor launch rush to rescue a survivor in the water alongside USS West Virginia after the attack, December 7, 1941.
REUTERS/U.S. Navy Photograph/Newscom
A burnt B-17C aircraft rests near Hangar Number Five, Hickam Field, following the attack by Japanese aircraft on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
REUTERS/Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives
A view of the USS ARIZONA burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, December 7, 1941.
REUTERS/Department of the Navy/Naval Photographic Center
In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, sailors stand among wrecked airplanes at Ford Island Naval Air Station as they watch the explosion of the USS Shaw in the background, during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
 (Credit: AP)
The ones like these LIFE Magazine photos that became memories in and of themselves.

And the ones like these, my grandfather's photos that tell the story of his experience in the Pacific Theater of WWII:

Gen. MacArthur delivers a speech in the Philippines.

Grandpa is on the right. 

That's part of what I love about photography, it lasts long after the moment and even the people have passed. A photograph carries in it the fading stories of days gone by, and hopefully it makes those who view it stop and reflect. That's why I think it's important to take pictures, not just me or people who label themselves "photographers,"but everyone. We won't all be present at a world-history-changing moment like Pearl Harbor, but we all have unique experiences and stories to tell and a life to share, and that probably won't happen if you don't do it. And who knows when an event from your life might become part of the story of a nation. Take time to remember today the sacrifice paid by so many on December 7, 1941, and then pick up a camera and go capture your own story. 

(How will the world remember 2011? Check out the 45 most powerful photos of the year, and LIFE Magazine's best photos of 2011.)

No comments:

Post a Comment