Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pearl Harbor

I was recently in Hawaii for a conference. A beautiful venue but because I was in class all day, I did not have much of an opportunity to explore paradise.
I was determined, however, to visit Pearl Harbor so on the last day of the conference a colleague and I boarded a tour bus and headed across Oahu to the site of the attack more than 70 years ago.
Access to the Memorial is only possible by a Navy boat that departs every hour. Before boarding, visitors view a short movie, and during the screening I attended, you could hear a pin drop. Every visitor, without exception, was deferential and respectful, recognizing that we were about to visit solemn ground. While there, I chatted very briefly with an older veteran...our words were few, but heartfelt, each of us tearing up trying to imagine a day that was a grim reality for so many.
The Memorial itself is built over the sunken USS Arizona. From the memorial, visitors peer over the porch-like sides to view the shadowy remains of the vessel that lies 60 feet below, now corroded and covered with various sea life. 1,177 sailors died during the attack and the Arizona serves as the final resting place for 1,102 of them.
The Arizona still leaks 2-3 quarts of oil per day. This leakage is often referred to as "black tears" or "tears of the Arizona" and it is said that when the oil stops leaking, all the souls lost will finally be at peace.
There is a wall at the back of the memorial that lists the names of the servicemen who died that day and I suspect that no words could ever assuage the grief of Mrs. McClafferty, or Mrs. Restivo, or Mrs. Czarnecki, or Mrs. Robertson, or Mrs. Greenfield after learning of the death of a beloved child or spouse following the horror and shock of the attack.
The USS Arizona is obviously retired but the site of her premature decommissioning serves as an official military cemetery. A United States flag flys continuously as a tribute to the ship and her lost crew and in remembrance of "the day that will live in infamy."

A Memorial docent shared several pieces of information including that the Arizona receives over 4,000 visitors each day and that every President since FDR has visited. He also told us that some funds to build the Memorial were made possible through the proceeds of an Elvis Presley concert in 1961.
A visit I will not forget. Ever. My next big adventure....Normandy Beach.

Memorial overhead image is from Google images.

1 comment:

Princess Kate said...

What a terrific opportunity to see Pearl Harbor. I hope I get there some day. Glad you got to make it.