For most of us, Sept. 11, is the date when our nation was forever changed by an horrific attack. But for those of the Greatest Generation, Dec. 7 is the day that will "live in infamy."
"The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces," President Franklin Roosevelt informed the nation on the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. "I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost."
The surprise attack came just before 8 a.m. and lasted for almost two hours. By the time it was done, 21 ships in the Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged, 188 aircraft were destroyed, and 2,403 Americans had lost their lives.
The next day Roosevelt went before Congress to request a declaration of war.
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory," he declared.
Before the attack, Americans were divided as to what role, if any, we should play in the battles then ragging on the other sides of the Atlantic and Pacific. That all changed on Dec. 7, 1941, with U.S. involvement eventually tipping the balance of the war.
While there was an exact accounting of those who died that day, no such record exists for those who survived the attack. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association was formed in 1958 and once had thriving chapters throughout the country. But with fewer members every year, it was disbanded two years ago on the 70th anniversary of the attack.
"We don't like to see it happen. But, we don't have young members coming in like other organizations," George Bennett, the organization's secretary, told CNN at the time.
Stu Hedley told the cable news channel he was concerned that as aging survivors continue to pass on, the memories of what happened that fateful day will die with them.
"I've had college students who have asked me what Pearl Harbor was," he said. "If you can find a paragraph (in school textbooks) you are doing good."
In an effort to make sure we never forget that day, Congress in 1994 declared Dec. 7 as Pearl Harbor Rememberance Day, calling on all Americans to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and urging that flags be flown at half staff in honor of those who died.
Ceremonies will be held today at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument looking out to the USS Arizona Memorial, and throughout the county. In Las Cruces, a ceremony will be held just after 8 a.m. in Veteran's Park.
The world is a much different place today. Japan is one of our strongest allies and trading partners. The battleground of 72 years ago is now a vacation site. Most of those who survived that day are no longer with us.
But, the memories of that fateful day and all that came after will not be forgotten.