Three U.S. battleships are hit from the air during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Japan's bombing of U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor brings the U.S. into World War II. From left are: USS West Virginia, severely damaged; USS Tennessee, damaged; and USS Arizona, sunk.

Friday marks the 77th year since the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II. Much has been written and said about how the peace and quiet of that Sunday morning was shattered by the air raid that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans and wounded more than 1,000 others. The assault destroyed or damaged 20 ships, more than 300 aircraft, and it prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ask Congress to declare war on Japan and its allies.

It is fitting that the nation pause to remember that occasion, those it affected and also to remember and pay homage to the servicemen and their families who gave so much in the course of the war that resulted. There are not many of those veterans still with us, and more are passing on every day.

The American people were particularly unified for the four years of the Second World War, willing to come together and sacrifice for the common goal of peace. In fact, it usually takes a crisis to unite the people of the United States. It happened during two world wars, following the 9/11 attacks and certainly in the wake of recent and devastating natural disasters.

It is heartening to see people support one another during a catastrophe. It also is interesting to contemplate what could be accomplished if Americans were unified for other, seemingly less significant reasons. Indeed, it is during the so-called normal course of events that unity could make significant differences.

One needn’t look far to see the need. In politics, all sides delight in demonizing the other; name-calling and incivility in the public square are commonplace. Cable news networks spend countless hours questioning the motives, if not the morals, of those with whom they disagree. Social media outlets are rife with disagreement and the anonymous spewing of vitriol. Pundits seem all too happy in pointing out that, politically speaking, the country has never been more divided.

Closer to home, disagreements and intemperate attitudes and actions cause conflict among neighbors and within families.

It’s in these day-to-day interactions where unity is most needed and usually most absent.

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Unity need not mean everyone agrees or sings “kumbaya.” It does mean Americans look for common goals and involves competing voices to accomplish something great.

As the nation takes time to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor and all it entailed and engendered, it is fitting to remember how the people of the nation came together in that time of crisis to support one another and to work together to move forward after tragedy. It likewise is appropriate to remember the other, simpler times that Americans have cooperated with and helped one another, and to think what one could do now to bring unity to the nation, the neighborhood and the family.