Attack was another Day of Infamy

By Todd C. Frankel

Herald Writer

Comparisons of Tuesday’s tragedy to Pearl Harbor flooded in right from the start.

It was the first thing many people said they thought at seeing the horrific TV images. Several national lawmakers drew the connection, with one senator calling it "a second Pearl Harbor." Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, said, "We have been attacked like we haven’t since Pearl Harbor."

Pearl Harbor has been the touchstone for reeling minds in the wake of Tuesday’s horrors, said Randolph Hennes, a University of Washington affiliate assistant professor of history.

"It’s the only similarly spectacular event to compare it to," Hennes said.

But even allusions to the Japanese attack that claimed 2,390 American lives on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, seemed to fall short. The destruction caused by four hijacked jetliners crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon surpassed anything known previously to Americans.

This was something worse.

Sept. 11, 2001, was quickly recognized as a new day that will live in infamy, an updating of President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous words.

Hennes said Pearl Harbor was the first thing he thought of when he awoke Tuesday to the early news reports. The 70-year-old Seattle native was 11 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. That event still resonates powerfully for younger people, who know it only from history books and movies.

"Pearl Harbor sent a shock through the American system that still echoes," he said.

Walt Bailey, who lives just east of Marysville and was a serviceman at the time of Pearl Harbor, said he sees the parallels between the two tragedies but also thinks they differ in important ways.

"It was so quick and no one knew," said Bailey, 82. But Tuesday’s attacks appeared to claim so many more lives, he said.

O’Kelly McCluskey, a 75-year-old WW II veteran from Lynnwood, said he didn’t see similarities.

"But how can you make sense of this thing?" he asked.

Tom Preston, a national security expert at Washington State University, said Tuesday’s events, like Pearl Harbor, should change forever how safe Americans feel.

"I don’t think the American public will see the world the same again. You’re looking at thousands and thousands of people dead. This attack shakes us, makes us feel our vulnerability," Preston said.

Both Preston and Hennes worried that people would target certain nationalities in the wake of Tuesday’s explosions. It was widely believed that Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible for the attacks, and the professors said they hope people resisted the temptation to blame all Middle Easterners for the tragedy, avoiding the mistakes made with people of Japanese descent during WW II.

Hennes said Tuesday’s events will not quickly or easily recede from our memories.

"In a year, will it be a turning point in American history?" Hennes asked. "I can’t see how it can’t be."

You can call Herald Writer Todd C. Frankel at 425-339-3429

or send e-mail to

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mel Jennings sits in his structure during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Mel has had a brain and spinal surgery, and currently has been homeless for a year. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Annual homeless count aims to give snapshot of housing crisis

Volunteers set out into the rain Tuesday to count all the people facing homelessness in central Everett.

Catherine Berwicks loads ballots into a tray after scanning them at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 in Everett, Wa.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Lawmakers push to boost voting in county jails across the state

A House bill envisions an approach similar to what’s been happening in the Snohomish County Jail for several years.

Vandalism at Seaview Park on Jan. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Edmonds Police Department)
Police seek suspects in repeated vandalism at Edmonds parks

Vandals have done over $10,000 of damage to parks across the city, including suspected arson and graffiti with hate speech.

One worker looks up from the cargo area as another works in what will be the passenger compartment on one of the first Boeing 787 jets as it stands near completion at the front of the assembly line, Monday, May 19, 2008, in Everett, Wash. The plane, the first new Boeing jet in 14 years, is targeted for power on in June followed by an anticipated first flight sometime late in 2008.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing workers long-exposed to carcinogen far above legal limits

The company confirmed in depositions that parts of its Everett plant still don’t meet 2010 standards.

CarlaRae Arneson, of Lynnwood, grabs a tea press full of fresh tea from Peanut the server robot while dining with her 12-year-old son Levi at Sushi Hana on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. CarlaRae said she and her son used to visit the previous restaurant at Sushi Hana’s location and were excited to try the new business’s food. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Peanut the robot waitress is on a roll at Lynnwood’s Sushi Hana

She’s less RoboCop and more Rosey as she patrols the restaurant, making sure everyone has a drink and good time.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Boeing settles with Everett security guard claiming chemical exposure

Holly Hawthorne was assigned to Building 45-335 at the south end of Paine Field, while employees used aerosolized chemical sprays nearby.

A section of contaminated Wicks tidelands on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port acquisition marks next step in toxic cleanup on Everett waterfront

Private owners donated land near the contaminated Wicks Tide Flats to the Port of Everett. Cleanup work could begin within the year.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Democrats advance assault weapons ban, new rules for gun buyers

The measures passed a House committee without Republican support. They are part of a broader agenda to curb gun violence.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown and the victim of a brutal attack in 2018 answer questions from reporters on Jan. 27, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Jake Goldstein-Street / The Herald)
White supremacists sentenced for racist beating at Lynnwood bar

A federal judge handed out stiffer sentences than prosecutors had asked for in a series of sentencing hearings Friday.

Most Read