December 7th, last year, was a magical day for our family. We awoke to a blanket of snow covering the back lawn and a myriad of snowflakes still falling, as seen in the shafted glow of the yellow streetlights. To my California-born children, snow is like going to Narnia, Disneyland and the beach all in one day. The fact that we could enjoy this snow at our own house was unbelievable. We wasted no time in donning boots, coats and mittens. We had snowball fights with the school carpool and built mini snowmen on the porch.
While the wet snow easily melted in the morning winter sun, our enthusiasm for the magic of this rare day did not. My kitchen window has a view of Mt. Diablo and that evening as the sun went down, I looked up to the white-topped summit, to enjoy the wonder of the snowy sunset. I saw a brilliant flashing light. Its rhythm uniformly piercing the still winter air. I wondered at this light, as I had never noticed it before.
A quick call to a friend and we soon learned that the light is an aircraft beacon atop the summit building. A lighthouse. This lighthouse was used in the years before 1941 as a beacon to pilots and ships in the bay. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, the beacon was turned off in fear that it could light the way for more attacks. It has never been used as an aircraft beacon since. It is, however, illuminated from sunset to dawn each December 7th.
As I stood there at the window, watching the light, I wondered at the strangeness and fear of that day almost 70 years ago. I felt, with a sense of solidarity, that feeling of grief and hopelessness. And that while these feelings are heartbreaking, they should be remembered.
So, even though it was late, I woke my children and brought them to the kitchen. I showed them the flashing light and told them a story about Pearl Harbor. And then I told them another story about September 11th. I told them that we should never forget. And then we stood there, at the window, and watched -- and we remembered.