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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
25
F
OCUS ON
FS R
EFLECT IONS
R
EMEMBERING
A
NOTHER
U
NFORGETTABLE
D
AY
n mid-September, Americans
focused on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. We
honored the memories of those who died that Tuesday in
2001 — in New York City, at the Pentagon and in a Penn-
sylvania field — as well as the soldiers and civilians who
have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the decade since
then.
We are still analyzing the knotty impact of that morning
that “changed history” and its aftermath. But I find myself
also remembering — as I always will — another world-
shattering day: Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked
Pearl Harbor. Last month marked the 70th anniversary of
that “day that will live in infamy.”
I was 7½ years old that boring afternoon, sitting on the
floor at my grandmother’s feet in the Methodist parsonage
in Magnolia, Miss. Sunday dinner was over, the dishes
washed. The New York Philharmonic played softly on the
round-topped, wooden radio.
Suddenly, an announcer interrupted the broadcast. In
an early morning sneak attack, Japanese planes had
bombed ships in Pearl Harbor and strafed civilians in Hon-
olulu. Later we learned that a substantial portion of the
U.S. Pacific fleet had been sunk or damaged and more
than 3,000 people killed or wounded.
But in that moment, we could only listen in stunned,
uncertain silence, straining to learn more.
Growing Up Overseas
Unlike most American children of that time and place,
I actually knew something about Japanese soldiers. Dur-
ing my first six years, “home” was a university campus in
Tsinan (now Jinan), the capital of Shantung province in
China. Our life there was “normal.” Daddy, a teaching
missionary, taught public health and parasitology. Mummy
started a playgroup and sang in a wavering voice.
My younger sister and I were “just kids,” who ran
around, listened to stories, watched Daddy play softball
and chew gum, grew, explored our immediate world and
learned things (snails leave a slime trail if they move up
your arm; worms wiggle and can make you sick if they get
inside you; shots hurt, but sting less if you watch them
being given — stuff like that).
Although I was oblivious to it, the Japanese had overrun
our part of China in 1937. Then, on Sept. 1, 1939, Ger-
many invaded Poland. That year we were caught in a
A F
OREIGN
S
ERVICE SPOUSE REFLECTS
ON A WORLD
-
SHATTERING DAY THAT
DEFINED A GENERATION
: D
EC
. 7, 1941.
B
Y
M
ARGARET
S
ULLIVAN
Margaret Sullivan, the wife of a retired FSO, has been in-
volved in international affairs her whole life, for the past
five decades mainly working on issues related to Indonesia
and the Malay world.