Miami Herald
Published Thursday, December 6, 2001

Sept. 11 puts Dec. 7 in new perspective


On Friday, Pearl Harbor Day, Ed Carstens, 79, of Hollywood, will remember being trapped three decks down on the stricken USS West Virginia in gasoline-soaked water up to his neck while above, his skipper lay dying of shrapnel wounds.

He also will reflect on the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, which in some ways he feels were even worse.

``At Pearl Harbor, we knew we were being attacked by an enemy nation, even though it was a sneak attack. They wanted to annihilate our fleet,'' says Carstens, who was rescued by shipmates.

``In the terrorist attack, those poor souls in New York were going to work oblivious of anything, and for no reason at all there come these planes. The attackers were people with no regard for human life, even their own. Just a hatred for us.''

For Carstens and millions of other Americans, the September attacks give deeper meaning to the remembering of Pearl Harbor Day -- two days of infamy, 60 years apart.

The dates resonate, in ceremonies from South Florida to New Orleans to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor itself, to create, in Carstens' words, ``a very solemn, sad, significant feeling.''

Similar sentiments will be voiced by World War II vet Forrest Clark in a speech for Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies in Miami Beach -- a speech prepared coincidentally on the day of the World Trade Center attacks: ``Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 7, 1941, are linked by some strange alchemy of history. We will need the talents of the Greatest Generation to light the way, to guide us through the coming weeks and months. We who remember Pearl Harbor learned how to do this in the crucible of war.''

If nothing else, Sept. 11 has renewed Americans' appreciation of its veterans.

``We had slipped into the shadows,'' says Larry Wernick, of the Jewish War Veterans in Aventura. ``People had forgotten the men who laid down their lives for their countries. We had become just old men with pot bellies who met once a year with tears in their eyes.

``Now people are more conscious.''

The terrorist attacks brought home the meaning of Pearl Harbor to the students in William Walker's graduate international relations course at Florida International University.

``The memory of Pearl Harbor used to be that the surprise attack was a unique, one-of-a-kind event,'' Walker says. ``What 9/11 did was to suggest to Americans that we are truly involved globally, for better or ill. The link between the two is that we do have real adversaries, and that some of our objectives will be violently opposed, and we may not always achieve them.''


In Tallahassee, the Museum of Florida History will dedicate its World War II Memorial exhibit at 10 a.m. on Friday. It's the first phase of a memorial honoring Florida residents who took part in that war. By 2005 it is to include a permanent monument and educational programs for Florida schools.

In New Orleans, the National D-Day Museum opens its new Pacific wing on Friday, and, in the current emotional setting, organizers expect a bigger spectacle than the opening of the museum itself last June.

``The Sept. 11 attacks have heightened Americans' awareness of Dec. 7 in a way no one could have anticipated last summer,'' museum President Nick Mueller told the Associated Press. ``There's a sense of unity and coming together we probably haven't seen since 1941.''

In Virginia at Arlington National Cemetery, AMVETS (American Veterans) and the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association will commemorate the Dec. 7, 1941, attack with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Friday at 11 a.m.

In South Florida, Carstens will attend a private Friday ceremony with fellow members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association that will feature a 21-gun salute and a wreath-laying on the water near the Coast Guard Station in Dania.

In Miami Beach, Clark and fellow World War II vets will hold their third annual ``Sand in Our Boots'' Veterans Reunion and Recognition Event on Thursday through Sunday, organized for some of the 500,000 Air Corps and Army vets who trained on the sands of Miami Beach.


The group is aided by Edison Hotel owner Judith Berson, whose father was among those who trained on the Beach. Berson helped put together a World War II historical exhibit for the Art Deco Museum at 1001 Ocean Drive, buying uniforms, photos and other memorabilia from the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and on the Internet auction site eBay.

Berson believes the Sept. 11 events have added significance to the Pearl Harbor ceremonies: ``When we did this event in the past, it was just a veterans' ceremony. Now the general public wants to come and show gratitude. These vets were patriotic all along; now the country is more patriotic too.''

At the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, veterans will observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the moment of the attack. Then, F15s will fly overhead in the traditional ``Missing Man Formation,'' the Pacific Fleet Band will strike up the national anthem and a bugler will play Taps.


One of the speakers Friday will be Zenji Abe, 85, who took off from the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi and dive-bombed the Arizona. He told the Associated Press he didn't realize at the time that it was a sneak attack.

``Years later I found out that the declaration of war was delivered after the attack,'' he says. ``I was mortified.''

Another Japanese pilot, Shinsaku Yamakawa, who attacked the USS Maryland, says he later met a U.S. sailor who told him the bomb he dropped had killed all his friends.

``But he still shook my hand. I will never forget that.''

For Yamakawa, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks demonstrate how much things have changed, with the U.S. and Japan now allies in the antiterror fight.

``If [the U.S. sailor] were to ask me today to go to fight for the United States in Afghanistan, I'd do it. For him.''