When someone references the psychologically shocking terms “Pearl Harbor” and “9/11” to describe what is hurtling down the mountain toward us, our ears prick up like Doberman guard dogs.
Even more so when the speaker is the U.S. Surgeon General, the movie-star handsome Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.”
He called on foot-dragging governors of eight states to get with the program and issue stay-at-home orders for their states, on the premise that the coronavirus does not respect state lines.
“The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, it’s going to be our 9/11 moment, it’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives,” he said. His warning echoed those from Dr. Anthony Fauci, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and even President Donald Trump, all of whom have pointed to the coming two weeks as the apex of infection, a period in which we can expect American deaths to go ballistic.
We are in a National Emergency, walking on trails we have never walked before.
Adams was guilty of understatement in likening this to the Day of Infamy or the 9/11 attack on America’s largest city and America’s capital.
In each case, the attack lasted just hours. Each led to a war, but a war fought on foreign soil.
This is World War III and it is being fought on home soil.
A quick digression: Almost all health officials agree the eight holdout states should join the other 42 in lockdown, but if they don’t, they will perform a service. They will provide the evidence of what happens when you count on herd immunity, or wishful thinking, to protect citizens.
It’s possible they are right. Not likely, but possible. We will find out.
Back to the Pearl Harbor scenario.
The only thing comparable to what we are facing now were the bombing of civilian populations during World War II, started by Spanish fascists and German Nazis. Civilians cowered in their homes, or bomb shelters if they had them, as death fell from the skies.
Now, we cower in our homes as death stalks the streets.
The only weapons we have are face masks and personal conduct, to be together, alone, as one hashtag puts it.
I keep busy by writing, watching and reading the news and fighting with people on Facebook. I go for an occasional walk wearing a facemask that steams my glasses, and get to Acme and CVS when needed.
I feel that is inadequate. My name is on a list maintained by my condo of people willing to run errands for neighbors, if needed. There were a lot of neighbors helping neighbors during World War II.
I’m not sure if my parents knew they were writing history during the war years, but certainly we are. There has been nothing like this in our nation’s history.
There have been horrible moments, such as 9/11, and horrible periods, such as the Depression, but never a coincidence of the two, tied with a bow of self quarantine.
We are not necessarily brave to endure this because we have no choice, but the historians may decide otherwise.
When France collapsed, Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared Britain would fight on alone, knowing his nation would face the full fury of Nazi might. He knew what was coming, yet declared of his island people, this would be their finest hour.
America has had many finest hours, moments when the lights were dimmed, when Americans had to fight in the dark, armed with faith in themselves, their democracy and (once upon a time) in their faith.
As we climb the COVID-19 curve in April, remember to take the precautions of soap and solitary, and remember we have passed other tests.
This may be another finest hour, and probably the worst.