What can we teach from this date that lives in infamy?

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comSeptember 10, 2013 

The Sept. 11, 2001, front page of the Island Packet Special Edition lies on top of the Sept. 11, 2002, anniversary edition.


For my generation, this is the date that will live in infamy.

We grew up hearing about the quiet Sunday morning in December 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it "a date which will live in infamy."

Our parents and grandparents told us what they were doing when they heard the news. And they told us how it changed society forever.

Maybe those stories caused many of us to refer to Pearl Harbor on Sept. 11, 2001. It was on that clear Tuesday morning 12 years ago that terrorist hijackers turned loaded commercial airplanes into missiles that plowed into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Instantly, we knew it was a date that would live in infamy.

At the newspaper, we had just started the weekly editorial board meeting when we were interrupted with the breathless news that the world was falling apart.

Within hours came the first letter to the editor. It said we probably had it coming due to years of failed policies. But the avalanche of letters to follow would decry the despicable acts on our soil that cost some 3,000 innocents their lives. For days, we had to find extra space to print all the letters. Writing brought solace to many.

People also immediately lined up to give blood. Weeks later, they were still lining up to give blood, even knowing that no survivors would be found.

Flags were everywhere. I especially remember the large American flags flying from the backs of fire engines.

Church attendance soared that week.

Eventually, memorials would be erected around the county. And a patriotic concert at Shelter Cove on Hilton Head Island drew 10,000 people holding candles aloft and donating money for the grieving families of New York City firefighters assigned to Ladder 105 and Engine 219.

But on that date that lives in infamy -- when hatred ironically ripped from the most peaceful blue skies -- we were busy at the newspaper putting out an eight-page "extra" that was distributed in late afternoon.

My job was to write the editorial. "Good will triumph over evil," it began, "but not without hard work."

America's response to Pearl Harbor was a light in those dark hours. Every family sacrificed, we'd heard all our lives. People pulled together for a cause greater than themselves. Yankee ingenuity flourished.

Today we should ask ourselves how our response to 9/11 could help future generations.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at

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