73 years ago today, Franklin Roosevelt announced we were going to war.
A day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, the biggest of all battles was on.
73 years ago. That's a lot of years.
And with each year, each anniversary, something slips. Fewer gather, fewer remember. So many gone. So many other things to do.
The Greatest Generation now rapidly disappearing.
Of the 16 million who fought in that great war, less than a million are alive today.
Little more than a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors gathering in Hawaii this week to share stories of the attack that killed 2,400 of their friends.
This was the last meeting for the USS Arizona Reunion Association now down to nine survivors of the battleship that sank that Sunday morning in 1941.
I remember some years back standing above the hull of that ship, reading the names of the more than 1,100 men still entombed below.
A woman I don't remember who quietly muttered, "they're all gone now. All of them. Every one."
She was speaking of a whole generation.
But she was forgetting about the thousands who never got to live out that generation. Or just grow old and do the stuff that defines all generations.
All the Thanksgivings they would never know.
The marriages and kids they would never see.
The family barbecues they would never have.
The baseball games they would never watch.
The great movies and events they would never witness.
The passages of life we all take for granted, wiped out in a single day no one saw coming.
Until they did, and for these heroes, it was too late.
Too late to swap war stories with buddies who would out-live them.
Too late to start jobs in a post war boom secured by the sacrifices made by them.
I guess that woman was right. We all die in the end.
But not equally. Not fairly.
Just as it wouldn't be equal or fair for the millions more who would give their lives in the months and years that would follow for a cause greater than themselves, denied the very rituals of life we take for granted ourselves.
I guess it hit me when I stood over the hull of that ship, the difference between human beings sharing this great planet and those barely getting a chance to start.