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Neighbor to Neighbor: It’s not the first time we’re asked to sacrifice

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So much has happened, so fast, since Sept. 11 that many people are finding it difficult to comprehend what is going on.

Even more troubling, they are worrying about what is to come. What can children be told? Where can they go to protect their families and themselves? When the government tells us that sacrifices will be expected of all of us, what will that mean?

We will just have to be patient. Maybe experience from past wars will help, maybe not. The technology that has advanced so rapidly, often making basic human participation unnecessary, may leave an important void in the lives of those fully dependent on those modern miracles, should they some day be taken away for one reason or another.

Some time ago in this column, I wrote about a visit I made with fellow members of The Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association and the New York Police Department to the Secret Service. The lecture we attended was about identity theft and other abuses of electronic technology. More than once, I have shared some of that information with the readers of this column. In fact, I had thought the topic of such importance that the week before Sept. 11, I had tried to arrange for a similar meeting for some of our elected officials and civic leaders.

Since the Secret Service offices we had visited were in the World Trade Center, it was fortunate they told me they were no longer making that lecture available. I had hoped to have that meeting the week of Sept. 10.

It might be helpful to some readers who are a lot younger than I am to repeat some information about what it was like for a student during an old-fashioned war - World War II. Pearl Harbor was a terrible shock to our entire nation. We were immediately plunged into a different way of life and told we would not only have to obey new, stringent laws, we would also have to help protect and defend our country in some way or another. Healthy young men rushed to volunteer for the military. Special units for women volunteers also were created. Doctors and nurses answered the calls to go to the battle fronts. As our family members, friends and neighbors trained and then were shipped overseas, we waited anxiously for news reports or letters that might give us some hint about where, and how, they were. Mail to and from them was censored. There could be no hint (not even talk of weather) that might indicate exact location of their units.

Anyone involved in war-related work was reminded constantly, “Loose lips sink ships!” No one was to trust anyone with information that might, wittingly or unwittingly, be transmitted to the enemy.

We were asked to support the war effort by investing in War Stamps. Once we had bought a specific number of stamps, they could then be converted into War Bonds. We had contests in school to see which class bought the greatest number of those stamps. Another school project was the sale of seeds, particularly vegetable seeds. So many farm workers had joined the military that home gardens were encouraged. We competed with neighbors about the produce from our Victory Gardens, and shared it as well. Many foods were rationed. Food stamps were provided to permit the purchase of what was often a very limited amount of meat, butter, sugar, or coffee. When, and if, those food items were available at all, it was not unusual that any purchase would require standing on long lines times for hours, often to be told, “Were sorry. It’s all gone.”

Because nerve gas had been used by our World War I enemies, we worried about that, too, and we worried about reports that were given daily about the atrocities being committed by the enemies we were fighting. Everyone studied and searched the sky for planes shaped like those of enemies. Our playing cards carried silhouettes of them as reminders. Anyone wanting to fish offshore was asked to watch for unusual ships or activities and were required to wear photo I.D.s after being fingerprinted and having a background check. All youngsters were required to wear I.D.s at all times.

These were only a few of the ways lives our lives were changed then. I’ll try to describe more another time.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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