Remembrance

Janet Coburn
3 min readFeb 4, 2024

I saw a post on social media yesterday that showed Native children dressed in school uniforms. Their image, wearing Native garb, was reflected in a pool of water. The words “Never Forget” were printed in between the two images. It made me stop and think how few of us remember what happened to Native children who were taken from their families and sent to government schools. It wasn’t taught in the schools I went to and isn’t likely to be taught now in a number of states. How can we remember what we never even knew?

In the spirit of remembrance, though, here is a glimpse at what we at least try not to forget.

Never Again

The Holocaust is the most famous event that we are exhorted never to forget — and never to allow again. As time goes on, there are increasingly fewer people who remember its horrors for themselves. There are movies, books, newsreels, and other media that have kept the memories alive, however. These days, we’re more aware of the concept of genocide, though there are those who deny that the Holocaust happened. January 27 is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s worth noting that German schoolchildren are taught not to forget. They learn about the horrors and even visit the sites of concentration camps, which are preserved as memorials to the dead.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is observed every year since 1994 on December 7, the “day that will live in infamy” to remember and honor the Americans who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. More than 2,000 people died and many more were injured. Remembrance Day is not an official national holiday, but flags are flown at half-staff. There are several memorials, the most famous of which is over the site where the USS Arizona was sunk. There is also a memorial to the USS Missouri, the ship where Japan surrendered to the US, ending WWII.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The US’s use of the atomic bomb on two cities in Japan is another event that bears remembrance — and avoidance in the future. Japan has designated a church that was nearest the center of the blast at Hiroshima as the official Peace Memorial. There are also a park and a museum at that location. At the Children’s Peace Memorial in the park, thousands of colorful origami cranes, a Japanese symbol of peace, can be seen. Nagasaki has also designated a memorial and a museum. As threats of nuclear war grow increasingly plausible, it’s worth reflecting on the damage done and the lives lost.

NASA’s Day of Remembrance

This year, January 25 has been designated NASA’s Day of Remembrance honoring the astronauts who have died in the process of space exploration. Three crew members died in a fire on the launch pad in 1967, and 14 crew members, including “Teacher in Space” Christa McAuliffe, were lost in the crashes of the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. Kennedy Space Center has a Space Mirror Memorial where workers and visitors often leave flowers.

9/11

This is the most recent event that needs to be remembered. Where we were when it happened is burned into those of us old enough to be aware of it. (It amazes me that I have to write that sentence.) Memorials at Ground Zero as well as in Pennsylvania and Washington have been built — parks and plaques and a 9/11 museum. Actually, countries around the world have memorials for the event as well. There have been solemn ceremonies such as the reading of the names of the dead on the first anniversary of the attack. There have been lots of other changes that remind us of 9/11 in less inspiring ways, such as increased security in airports and a greater awareness of terrorism in the US from a number of other sources.

It’s sad — tragic — that these remembrances involve so much death. And there are more tragedies that I haven’t even mentioned, like President Kennedy’s death (which some of us are old enough to remember for ourselves). Celebrations of people’s lives don’t seem to last that long.

Maybe it’s because the tragedies arouse in us deeper levels of feeling than lives lived well and examples that inspire. Maybe it’s because we hope something good will rise from the ashes.

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Janet Coburn

Author of Bipolar Me and Bipolar Us, Janet Coburn is a writer, editor, and blogger at butidigress.blog and bipolarme.blog.