‘It changed our lives forever' — Many believe 9/11 brought the nation together; some say it didn't have the same effect at Pearl Harbor

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In 2001, social media was in its infancy. Today, it’s the fastest way to connect with long-lost friends and complete strangers.

On Facebook, there are pages for 9/11. Like the Remember September 11, 2001 page; it was established to “honor the heroes that gave their lives that day.”

More than 600,000 members have joined the cause and almost $500 was donated through the link.

The World for 9/11 Truth, a nonprofit organization, has a Facebook page too, where 9/11 news articles, documentaries, interviews and videos are posted.

Its mission: “support a new independent investigation into the events of this tragic day.”

An interactive app, Remember 9/11 Where Were You?, illustrates the whereabouts of 1,755 individuals on 9/11.

Created by the National Geographic Channel, the app allows users to place a marker on the map signifying where they were on that fateful day. The entire world is available. Users enter a location on the world map and can upload their personal stories to the page.

On 911memorial.org, you can watch an interactive timeline that chronicles the day’s events by using images, audio and video from the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s permanent collection. Filled with first-person accounts from survivors, first responders and other witnesses, the timeline has some graphic images and heart wrenching sounds; it is so powerful, there is a disclaimer.

Garrison is happy these types of memorials are available. “It’s one thing to read the words, but another to hear the words from those who were there.

“It’s wonderful that we have that technology for people to experience it through interactive media.”

These sites help grieving families who live too great a distance to visit ground zero.

We will never forget.

Those four little words became the battle cry for all Americans in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But does the statement still hold true? Or did we forget?

For some area residents, forgetting that fateful day is inconceivable. It’s akin to forgetting the Pearl Harbor attack, the John F. Kennedy assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing or even the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. For those who lost a loved one during those horrific events, forgetting isn’t an option either; instead they focus on remembering.

But how do you remember if you were too young to comprehend the day’s events?

Evan Isaacson, of Naples, was 3 years old on 9/11, but still feels the effects 10years later. Isaacson likened it to putting your hand in ice water: immediate shock. “It was just a regular day when it happened,” he said, of the attacks.

A volunteer at Homer Helter’s Antique & Military Mall, Isaacson spends his free time with military veterans who have served in every military campaign since World War II, and plans to join the ROTC when he enters high school. To remember 9/11, Isaacson looks to those who flocked to New York City’s ground zero for the clean up.

“(9/11) really shaped my awareness of the selflessness of the people who took money out of their own pockets or came to New York to help,” said Isaacson. “I think of a day of mourning in the hearts of the American people and the loss of peace.”

Gulf Coast High School graduate Robert Joyce, of Naples, was 15 at the time of the attacks.

“Every year (on) Sept. 11, I try to watch the ceremonies on TV to remember every person (who perished). I didn’t know anyone, but I like to remember everyone in respect. It changed my life forever,” wrote Joyce, in an email to the Daily News.

A Pearl Harbor for a new millennium

Dec. 7, 1941 is “a day which will live in infamy,” so is 9/11 a day which “we will never forget”?

It is for Dennis Jarstead, of Naples.

“9/11 brought people together,” said Jarstead. “It changed our lives forever; it changed my views of the Muslims (extremists) because of what they did to us.”

But Jarstead thinks that patriotic sentiment was higher after Pearl Harbor. And unlike that fateful event, Jarstead believes this is a life crusade. “This is a holy war and they’re (the terrorists) are not going to stop.”

There are obvious differences between the attacks on Pearl Harbor and9/11. For one, Japan, a nation-state, aimed only at military targets during its bombing in 1941. Sixty years later, al-Qaida, a terrorist group, hijacked commercial aircraft and flew them into civilian targets, as well as the Pentagon.

Some argue the comparison has caused the nation great harm.

John Dower, a Pulizer-Prize-winning historian of Japan, argues in a 2010 book “Cultures of War” that “pervasive” use of the analogy helped Americans believe they could thwart the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks with “brute force” the way the U.S. and its allies had defeated Japan, Germany and Italy in World War II.

This contributed to America turning to fight al-Qaida with conventional military force, instead of primarily treating the terror network as a group of criminals, he wrote.

“More than undiscerning and counterproductive, this response was a disaster,” he wrote.

Emily Rosenberg, a history professor at University o f California, Irvine, noted Pearl Harbor was the opening shot in a long war in which more than 400,000Americans died. She said few in the early 1950s felt a need to elevate those who died on Dec. 7, 1941, when so many had been killed in World War II and the Korean War.

“It’s only later on I think that it comes to have this singular status,” said Roseberg, whose book “A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory” examines how Americans have looked back on the attack over the years.

Ralph Esposito, of Naples, was6yearsoldwhenPearlHarbor occurred. “I remember vividly all the people running in the streets,” said the retired Marine Corps veteran.

But he sees the disparities between the two catastrophes, citing that those who were involved in Pearl Harbor still feel the sting.

“We don’t have the patriotism that we did back then,” said Esposito, whose uncles and cousins all joined the Marine Corps after Pearl Harbor. “All the youths belong to gangs” instead of joining the military nowadays.

Marine Corps veteran Jay R. Jones barely made it home alive from Vietnam and holds his patriotism dear to his heart. But he thinks that foot soldiers are obsolete, and we should “use more bombs.”

“When the (Japanese) bombed Pearl Harbor, we went after them. Today we’re playing games, sending our sons and daughters over there to fight and die,” said Jones, who spoke with a visible passion.

After the military campaign began and troops starting returning home, Jones would volunteer at VA hospitals visiting the severely injured soldiers. He called the experience “heart wrenching.”

For World War II veteran Thurlow Miller, of Naples, his opinion is not that different from his fellow veterans.

“They (the military) should make all those mountains a parking lot.… We wouldn’t have had to lose those Navy SEALS (who died on Aug. 6), if we had,” said Miller, retired U.S. Navy.

But Miller thinks Pearl Harbor was more significant than 9/11. “I think it was worse tome, being in the service. The Japanese, we thought they were our friends.”

Grief psychologist Barbara Okun says it takes several generations for a tragedy on such a massive scale — like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 — to lose its visceral impact and fade into history.

Patriotism and memorials

Yes, those horrific events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 can unite all Americans, despite our usual prejudices. But how to we pay tribute to those who fell?

An obvious way is to construct a multimillion-dollar museum and memorial, like the one at ground zero in New York City.

The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum will be dedicated Sunday, on the 10th anniversary. It serves as “a tribute of remembrance and honor to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center site, the near Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993,” reads the introductory on the memorial’s website, 911memorial.org.

Located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex, the 9/11 Memorial takes up about half of the 16-acre site and features two waterfalls and reflecting pools (each about an acre in size) are set within the original boundaries of the twin towers.

The name of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels along the edges of the Memorial pools. Inside the Memorial Museum, displays of 9/11 artifacts as well as a historical exhibition of those events were erected.

In Naples, we have our own, the Freedom Memorial, located near Goodlette-Frank Road and Golden Gate Parkway.

“Memorials have become part of our culture,” said Art Garrison, of Naples and a member of the Freedom Memorial Task Force, which approved the memorial’s design and helped raise the money to build it.

“The memorial is for all first responders, for everyone who was lost on 9/11, and the soldiers who died since then,” explained Garrison of the memorial’s purpose.

A Vietnam veteran, Garrison considers himself a “flag waver,” and “very strong” supporter of veterans’ issues. He got involved with the task force about six months ago after visiting the Freedom Memorial site.

“When I read (inscriptions on) some of the pavers, I realized how important it is for so many people,” explained Garrison, of remembering 9/11. “From World War I or World War II … those names inscribed create a correlation between past service and those who died on 9/11.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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