Students honor victims of Pearl Harbor attack 77 years later


Story by Davis Elordi, Features Editor

     On December seventh, seventy-seven years after the Pearl Harbor attack, the community of students assembled to mourn the tragedy. To honor the seventy-seventh anniversary of the attack, AP Human Geography teacher Ellen Birkman encouraged students to dress in respectful clothing.

     In late 1941, the United States had not yet entered an international conflict, which became known as World War II. The U.S. government was negotiating in early December with the Japanese Empire to prevent war. Despite peacekeeping initiatives by the American government, the Japanese Empire decided to attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This surprise attack killed 2,335 military personnel and sixty eight civilians. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that December seventh would be “a day that will live in infamy” before asking for the American government to declare war on Japan. The U.S. then entered one of the most brutal wars in world history.

     “My hope is that we can keep a tragic event that occurred over seventy-five years ago current and relevant,” said AP Human Geography teacher Ellen Birkman. “Those 2500 young men who never returned and 1200 who were severely wounded were our brothers, our countrymen. It takes my breath away and gives me pause to think that my students are the same age as most of the young men who died that day.”

     Over 400,000 Americans died in World War II, and approximately sixty million people died across the world. The sacrifices made are routinely honored on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but December seventh marks the solemn occasion for Pearl Harbor alone. Birkman’s 180 students decided to represent those 3,000 dead on the day of the attack. The decision to honor the men who made the ultimate sacrifice was an easy one for many students.

     “I think it’s important to remember the lost lives,” said senior Hayley Gustin, one of the students participating in the remembrance. “People were living their day to day lives and it was taken from them within seconds, it really puts how precious life is into perspective. It’s also the battle that gave the United States a reason to enter World War II which was an important part of our history.”

     Birkman dedicated the day to analyzing the events of the day. Offering a comprehensive analysis of the Japanese battle strategy, students learned how the tragedy was made real as well as the shortcomings of the Japanese Empire. Birkman also discussed the film Pearl Harbor and its accuracies to the tragedy of the day. All this was done in an effort to remind the students how an event that would not be matched until the 9/11 terrorist attacks should always remain in our minds. Birkman finished the class by urging the students to never forget the sacrifices made by men and women for the betterment of the future.

     “I think it is critically important to know and appreciate the sacrifices of those who preceded us,” said Birkman. “My 180 students will respond to the query [of why they are dressed respectfully] with the simple words ‘it’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.’ Hundreds of Americans may have been quietly reminded of a tremendous sacrifice that others made when they answered the call to serve.”

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