FOR THE first time since it was founded in 1958, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association did not formally gather in Hawaii to commemorate the attack of Dec. 7, 1941.
Their failing health and dwindling numbers -- only a few thousand still live -- prompted the organization to disband as the 70th anniversary was observed last year.
Of course, the national day of remembrance went on Friday at Pearl Harbor and in ceremonies across the United States. But the change does mark another chapter in the fading presence of the generation that fought -- and supported those fighting -- World War II.
Just as it has with the passing of the veterans of the Revolution, the Civil War and World War I, the nature of the remembering changes. No one can recount history quite like someone who's lived through it and made it. But then, too, the voices and images of many of those heroes and average Joes and Janes have been recorded and archived in more ways than any earlier conflict.
Pearl Harbor and the mammoth war effort that followed will remain a milestone in our national story, no matter how it's repeated.
Lessons of sacrifice, vigilance and courage will endure. But most important, perhaps, is the legacy of national resilience in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. The attack that Sunday left more than 2,400 Americans dead, most of the U.S. Pacific fleet damaged or sunk, most military aircraft destroyed and Hawaii nearly defenseless.
That Monday, the country came together, rolled up its sleeves and turned to the grim business of war.
Today, our threats and dangers are more and more complex than hostile fleets over the horizon. The next attack may come from a rogue nuclear power, a cargo container, homegrown terrorists or cyber attacks launched against a single key computer or millions of smartphones.
America may find it hard to achieve the unity of Dec. 8, 1941, or Sept. 12, 2001, in a world of threats in shades of gray. But Americans should never forget the power of our nation when we rally together.