Some senior citizens have seen this nation attacked twice during their lifetime, once by Japan in 1941 and again, 60 years later, by terrorists on 9/11/01.

In both cases, the enemy underestimated the nation's ability to bounce back, thanks to the resolve of individual citizens to endure and plow through.

The way the nation rallied together after the Pearl Harbor attack of Dec. 7, 1941, is especially gripping to read and hear about from those who are part of the Greatest Generation. From scrap metal drives, to ration books, to Victory Gardens, everyone sacrificed in the wartime economy.

One old Life Magazine article I saw told about the salvage effort that went on following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The article credited the men who worked to salvage the metal from those damaged ships, including the divers and other specialists who worked above and below the surface. Because of their efforts, much of the steel and material that was salvaged went back into the American war machine.

The article pointed out that many of these workers were as heroic as our fighting men in uniform. The home front contributions of individual civilians, as well as companies like Bethlehem Steel, could not be calculated. But the end result certainly helped in winning the war.

History often repeats itself.

On Monday, a new Navy assault ship, the USS New York, received a 21-gun salute when it made a stop near Ground Zero, site of the 9/11 attacks. The $1 billion ship has special meaning for the men who serve on it and especially to those who lost friends and loved ones in the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center.

The ship was made out of about 7.5 tons of steel from the twin towers. Thanks to the salvage crews who worked at the dangerous Ground Zero site, some of that twisted steel was removed, melted down and reused in the ship's bow, in honor of those who died.

Just as America got off the deck after Japan's sneak attack in 1941 to build a formidable war machine to defeat the Axis powers, the USS New York stands as a tribute to the victims of 9/11, and to America's ability to bounce back after taking an enemy punch.

Nothing smacks in the face of this country's enemies more than to see the American will and ability to overcome, and to visibly see a fighting ship like the USS New York rise up to protect our freedoms.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]