Sixty-four years ago this morning, just after day break, America was changed forever. In the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, 2,400 young servicemen lost their lives.
And, in spite of the the way the world has become -- so fast paced and disposable -- the memorial at Pearl Harbor remains a quiet sanctuary of peace and remembrance. As retired Navy Admiral Thomas Fargo told me, "Pearl Harbor is sacred ground" for the American people. So many make the pilgrimage here -- 1.6 million each year -- that the visitors center is overwhelmed... too small for visitors and too small for all the artifacts and stories on display.
And there's another irony. The visitors center itself is sinking! Built on soft soil, in a few years it will be unusable. So, as another anniversary arrives, a fund raising drive is underway to help build a new one. Is it important? I have spoken with a number of Pearl Harbor survivors in my time here this week, a group whose numbers continue to dwindle.
What's the lesson they want to pass on? These aging soldiers, sailors and airmen adopted the slogan "Remember Pearl Harbor, Keep America Alert" after the attack. They maintain America was caught by surprise 64 years ago, and that it happened again on 9/11. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the story of what happened at Pearl Harbor remains so vital to the hundreds of people who line up at the front gates each morning, waiting their turn to take a tour.
Editor's note: For an interactive look at the "date which will live in infamy," check out this presentation narrated by NBC's Lester Holt.