One of my most embarrassing (in a good way) moments in journalism was because I asked a simple question in late November 2001. “Are there any plans to honor the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor?”
“Oh, my, I forgot. I’ll let you know,” my VFW contact told me. It wasn’t a surprise since we were still in a new world following the Sept. 11 attacks. People’s minds were elsewhere.
A day or two later he called me back that they were planning a ceremony on one of Westport’s beaches, and it was at that ceremony that I felt a little embarrassed.
My contact was talking to the crowd that was gathered there and specifically thanked me for making the whole thing possible. If I hadn’t called him and asked, they wouldn’t have done anything to honor the anniversary.
Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day (I covered the 60th anniversary memorial in Westport too), and it made me think of all of the veterans I’ve met throughout my career, especially those that fought in World War II. They never glamorized war, but they felt it was important to tell their stories. They were stories that would inspire you — the things they sacrificed to go fight to defend our rights and the lives they led once the war was over.
And I felt it was important to tell their stories too. These are men and women who are my generation’s grandparents, which means we’re coming to a time when they won’t be here to tell their stories any more. All that will remain are our memories of them, not their voices to tell us their memories.
That’s how journalism is a living history. We’re here to amplify these stories, remind people of what happened and teach the younger generations our history. This is where we came from and how today’s world was formed. And today’s technology allows us to be able to create things — like video recollections of veterans — that will live forever.
We really should do more of these kind of projects to help us all to remember and to learn. It’s often said journalism is the first rough draft of history, but it’s really more than a first rough draft. It is our history, our living history, as we tell these people’s stories.
Update: The Wire did a review of how we’re remembering D-Day through veteran stories and how the media in 1944 covered the events.