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September 12, 2001
The Pueblo Chieftain Online
10,000 times worse than Pearl Harbor
Area vets horrified by terrorist strikes
By GAYLE PEREZ and DENNIS DARROW
The Pueblo Chieftain
They witnessed firsthand the horrors of war, starting with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II.
But local veterans say they never could imagine an attack against the United States like the suicide airplane hijackings that hit New York City and Washington, D.C.
"This is 10,000 times worse than Pearl Harbor was," said Joe Klock of Pueblo, who in 1941 was a civilian Navy employee watching the attack on Pearl Harbor unfold from a hilltop near the harbor.
"That was bad enough, but this is horrendous. Pearl Harbor was aimed at the military, specifically the military. This is ridiculous, because they're involving anybody and everybody."
Klock, who later enlisted in the Navy, also voiced frustration that the attack appears the work of clandestine terrorists: "Japan at least showed their rising sun under their wings," he said.
Home of Heroes co-founder Doug Sterner predicted the terrorist attack will be a defining moment in American history on a par with Pearl Harbor
"Just as we declared war on Japan in 1941, we can declare war on terrorism," said Sterner, a Vietnam War veteran who also serves as chairman of the state Veterans Affairs board.
History suggests such struggles are inevitable, Sterner said.
"Since our nation was born in 1776, no generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom by force or arms," Sterner said.
By midday Tuesday, the Home of Heroes Web site unveiled an updated front page under the banner headline, "A Day That Will Live In Infamy."
A photo illustration showed a scene of Pearl Harbor with a picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the World Trade Center air strikes with a picture of President George W. Bush.
The Web site also recalls President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech when he pledged that future generations of young people will continue to defend America's freedoms:
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."
Kennedy's words seemed a welcome reassurance after Tuesday's events, Sterner said.
"In a very visible way, we're seeing today that torch being extended to today's generation, and I for one am confident they will live up to President Kennedy's message," Sterner said.
Slim Osleson of Pueblo, who served in the Air Force during World War II, also characterized Tuesday's attack as worse than Pearl Harbor.
"For the numbers that have been killed or injured, this is much worse," he said. "This is beyond a civilized world's comprehension. There is no way to understand this degree of a tragedy."
The attack was similar to Pearl Harbor in that it caught the nation by surprise, Osleson said.
"It's just a sneaky and cowardly way to do it," Osleson said. "It just made chills go up my back, just like it did back then."
"I can't help but think how nice and civilized we are to people around the world and this is our payment. It's just a matter of the uncivilized against the civilized."
John Garcia, a Pearl Harbor survivor, said Tuesday's attack overwhelmed him.
"On Dec. 7, 1941, I was in Hawaii and was close to Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred. I was just in shock and had kind of a numb feeling," Garcia said. "Today, I have that same numb feeling. I'm thinking what a blow this is to this country."
Garcia said one difference between the two attacks was that the Japanese were following orders from their leaders and he believes the terrorists were acting on their own.
"These terrorists are just unhappy people. They're always fighting," Garcia said. "They get together as a group and instead of seeking peace, they seek to destroy things."
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