The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 started shortly before 8:00 AM when the first wave of planes struck. The assault of the second wave was over just before 10:00 AM. Within two hours, the world had changed in ways that most Americans couldn’t even imagine. In a moment normal was gone, and some feared it would be gone forever. For those lost on December 7th and the thousands lost in the four years that followed, normal tragically and regrettably would never return.
On the home front, change came in swift and dramatic measures to rise to the challenges of global warfare. Seats around Sunday dinner tables were vacant as the ranks of the military force swelled on a daily basis. Rosie the Riveter became an enduring and iconic symbol of the women who replaced men in what had been a predominantly male workforce. Grandparents assumed the roles of parents as dads and moms went to war. Rationing became the order of the day, and wartime production led to scrap metal drives to provide the raw materials for armaments and munitions.
Air raids became common. Tall buildings in many communities became lookout posts for enemy aircraft. Public utilities and water supplies were guarded by shifts of citizens, who frequently served after a full day of work at their regular jobs. Mondays often became Meatless Mondays and Wednesdays became Wheatless Wednesdays at the urging of President Roosevelt. The goal was to preserve food supplies for the armed forces, just as had been done during World War I.
These were indeed harsh times. During the long and difficult years of World War II, many people were left to ask time and time again, “When will we finally get back to normal?” In the current day, in the midst of the coronavirus emergency, that same question is on the lips of many. The words of one family’s patriarch following yet another Sunday dinner where places had been set for and left vacant by those in the service during WWII, are worth repeating for the hope they provided seventy-five year ago.
Here is what he said.
“These are indeed tough times. This is our time to do what we can. If we’re to make it though this, we can’t be slackers, and we can’t think of just ourselves. This is called a world war for a reason; the whole world is involved. If we give way to selfishness, we may win for a day, only to lose a great deal in the long run. If everybody thinks only of themselves, we each become easy prey to anything and everything that threatens us.
“Sure, I’d like to go to the store and buy whatever I want whenever I want, but right now that’s just not possible. Things that we don’t waste can be used to support those on the front lines, fighting the enemy that clearly threatens us all. If we resist the urge to hoard, there’s a better chance that everyone will have enough to make it through, rather than some having more than they need, while others don’t have enough. You see, we’ve got to think about others. This is not a one-person fight, and it won’t be a one-person victory.
“Here people ask about when we’ll get back to normal. To be honest, I think that will be some time down the road. We’ve got a ways to go yet, but we’ll get there sure enough. And just so you know, normal changes all the time anyway. Even in the best of times, normal changes constantly. Occasionally it’s easy and other times it’s hard. Remember, if normal didn’t change, we’d still be gathered around the opening of the first cave man walked out of.
“So, when you think about returning to normal, think about a new normal. When you get to feeling that it’s tough right now, remind yourself that if we follow the best available advice of the day, do what we can to think of others, and do so with a positive and hopeful resolve, we’ll get through this together. Yes, we’re sacrificing a good bit of our normal today, and we do that willingly, so that we and generations to come can have a better and safer normal when this war is over.”
CV-19 is a tough enemy. Fighting it alone is no more possible today than fighting World War II on your own would have been a few generations ago. It’s once again time for us all to pull together. We are being called on today to sacrifice parts of what had been our normalyesterday, so that tomorrow can bring new and better normals for us and future generations.
Why would we even consider doing anything less?