Beaufort, S.C. --
Most Americans remember exactly where they were, what they were doing on 9/11, seeing the planes crash into the World Trade Center, either in person or on the news, and the fear and confusion that swept across the country. The event shook America. More than 70 years, Pearl Harbor affected Americans in much the same way, forever etching images of sinking ships and explosions into their minds as the news swept across the nation.
“I remember hearing about Pearl Harbor and being completely awestruck,” said retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Heyward Bellamy, a former radio technician aboard the USS Converse. “I was at a loss for words. I don’t remember much of that day. I felt lost. I remember sitting down shortly after hearing the news, my mind was racing and I had a horrible headache. I will never forget that feeling.”
Before the attack, many Americans didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was. Overnight, it became America’s call to war. Much like 9/11, Pearl Harbor brought about patriotism against a common enemy.
“I remember hearing about 9/11 when I was 10 years old, but I was too young to understand it,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick McMahon, a combat photographer with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. “In 2004, my brother re-enlisted in the Marine Corps. That year he came home on pre-deployment leave, and sat me down as we watched the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was then that he calmly told me he was going to war and that he would be leaving soon. I was shocked. I watched as floats and marching bands passed us, but didn’t pay attention to them, I was nervous and already began missing him. Deep down I was proud and knew he would return, and because of that I decided to stay strong for him and my sisters who broke down at the thought of watching him leave, and possibly not return.”
After 9/11, nine of McMahon’s 10 siblings joined the military, spurred to motion after seeing the attacks and the impact it had on the nation. Like 9/11, Pearl Harbor brought men and women across the country together to raise their right hand, and swear to protect and defend their country from all enemies foreign and domestic.
“Watching my siblings sign up put everything into perspective,” McMahon said. “From that moment on I knew I was going to join the Marine Corps to defend America as my siblings did. Before I left for boot camp, my brother called me to wish me luck and told me he wished he could have watched me swear in. That’s when it hit me. This was real. I was finally going to leave for the Marines after waiting for years.”
Generations before McMahon, Bellamy began the daunting process of enlisting. After being denied from joining the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Navy, Bellamy wrote his congressman and senators asking to enlist into the Navy. After several attempts his request was granted, and he left for Bainbridge, Md. shortly after to attend boot camp.
“I remember signing the papers. All I could think about was how grateful I was to be given the chance to serve my country,” Bellamy said. “After the attack, men lined up outside of the recruiting offices and into the streets. Those lines were like nothing I’ve ever seen before, everyone had the same expression on their faces, we wanted to go and destroy the ones responsible for attacking us. The air was thick with tension, everyone was breathing heavily. I proudly say I was one of those men.”
America has had several unforgettable moments that changed the course of history, and made many Americans reflect and make the decision to protect and defend the United States.
Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation and brought everyone together in regards to entering the war. They began mass producing weaponry, military vehicles, and other supplies for the war effort.
In the days after the 9/11 terrorist attack, comparisons to Pearl Harbor were often made. The attacks resulted in a spirit of American unity against a common enemy, and men and women across the country came together, raised their right hand, and swore to protect and defend their country from all enemies foreign and domestic.