How will people read your story?

boys climbing

“In the end, we’ll all become stories.”

— Margaret Atwood

Each day, when I read the newspaper, I mourn the fact that we are losing our World War II veterans and along with them, we are also bidding farewell to those who remember where they were on Pearl Harbor Day.

With this loss, we lose the ability to touch a defining moment in American history.

Pearl Harbor

I have talked to many people of all walks of life who came home from church that quiet December Sunday morning, enjoyed lunch, then turned on the radio, as usual, to listen to their entertainment, long before television changed how the world received announcements.

My dad was sitting on the floor beside his grandfather after lunch when their afternoon radio show was interrupted with the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked from the air.

Just 10 years old, innocent as a lamb, the little boy had to ask what that meant. The words were foreign, and the description given to him by a visibly upset grandpa who was typically the picture of calm still made no sense.

Innocence will never again be what it was in the world at that time.

Movies were sweet and tame, and stories relayed over the radio had to be envisioned by the listener, based on their own life experience.

“Bombs are being dropped from airplanes and hurting people, but far, far away from us,” were the words finally spoken by his grandfather, but still the scene could not be pictured by a farm boy in a quiet Victorian home in Ohio.


Neighbor boys signed up to go to war in the months following this dreadful day. One, an only child to beloved neighbors, never came home.

My dad spoke of that loss from time to time, and his personal pain for the parents of that kind-hearted young man remained clear over the course of many years.

“I always wonder who he would have become,” Dad said of his neighbor.

“He was an exceptional boy, and so kind to everyone, even to annoying little kids like me.”

When I was old enough to read about the world setting at that moment in history, I asked questions that seemed so simple.

Why? What did the people of Hawaii do to deserve the brutal attack by the Japanese?

Why, in another part of the world, did Hitler destroy entire families of innocent people? And didn’t anyone know he was doing this?

If they knew, then why (a million times why!) didn’t anyone stop this madness?

While some people knew Hitler as a despicable man, others revered him. Regardless, the scope of atrocities was not fully realized while the demonic reign was taking place, I was told.

I can still remember the feeling of rage upon learning this, as I wondered how this could ever happen.

I didn’t know who to blame, but I could not bear to read books on the Holocaust assigned by teachers. It seemed to simplify the horror to written words on a page.

The senselessness of such evil was incomprehensible. We are now living through moments that will become history.

There are things increasingly difficult to hear, accounts that leave us feeling helpless.

My story

One day, a child might ask one of us “why didn’t you do something?”

It hurts to realize I have no idea how I will answer.

I would give anything to have the power to help set things right in the days before I become a story.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.



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