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    Memories of Pearl Harbor rush back

    For those who remember the Japanese attack 60 years ago, Tuesday's devastation opens a flood of emotions - and some new fears.

    By STEPHEN NOHLGREN

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 12, 2001


    photo
    [Times files (1941)]
    The nation huddled around its radios to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Infamy" speech.
    It was CNN on a 32-inch screen, not FDR on a battered old radio. But for Americans old enough to remember, Tuesday was the second time around.

    Our nation came under attack. People suspended their daily tasks to gather and absorb the news. Horror, anger and anxiety pervaded our national psyche.

    Much like Pearl Harbor.

    "It is the modern re-enactment," says Port Richey resident Joseph Lechner, 80, who was a flyboy bringing a plane from San Francisco to Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, when he saw the bombing.

    "The only difference between Pearl Harbor and this is that in Pearl Harbor, we could point and say, "It's the Japs,"' Lechner said. "Here, you can't point to who caused it."

    Bill Futch, an 84-year-old retired St. Petersburg physician, served in field hospitals in Normandy, Germany and Czechoslovakia during World War II. The Sunday the Japanese attacked he was about to graduate from Tulane University Medical School.

    "Everybody was in a state of shock, not knowing what in the world was going on, and what we were about to get into," he said. "Everybody was glued to the radio getting ready to hear the president talk about the day that would live in infamy.

    "Certainly there has been a repetition of that today."

    Most people 75 and older remember vividly where they were in 1941. They knew the nation would soon be at war and that young men would die. But in some respects, some said, Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington are harder to cope with.

    Hawaii was a far-off, exotic place, not yet a state, and to many, not yet part of the country. Photographs were grainy and static. Censorship kept the full extent of carnage from the public for months. And the nation pulsed with confidence that it would win the ensuing fight.

    Tuesday's mesmerizing scene unfolded before our eyes. Our biggest buildings in our biggest city were reduced to rubble.

    "This is a historic day. This is a tragic day. It has put me in a fog," said 94-year-old St. Petersburg resident Virginia Lewis, a former assistant superintendent of schools in Chicago.

    "I didn't have the same apprehension with Pearl Harbor. Here I don't know what might happen next. I think the results of this are more far-reaching that we can see at this time. That has me very alarmed."

    Before Pearl Harbor, the country figured it was going to war -- the only question was when, recalled 83-year-old Brandon resident DeMaris Marsh.

    Tuesday's shock came without warning and raises questions about our preparedness, she said.

    "What happened to the CIA? What about our intelligence? We had no inkling," Marsh said.

    "Now we're talking about putting billions into missile defense, when that is not what we need to be defending against. We need to defend against this and biological warfare."

    - Times staff writer Tamara Lush contributed to this report.

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