I’ve never been a fan of history. In high school, it was my least favorite subject; why did I want to learn about stuff from the past? Life was young, exciting, and at an age where you were discovering yourself, meeting and making new friends and new experiences. I couldn’t have cared less about history, most of those people were dead anyway, right? Getting me interested in history, would be the equivalent to getting an automotive mechanic interested in let’s say, knitting. Fortunately for most of us, we change as we get older.
Four years ago, my daughter and I took a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, where she was playing in a soccer tournament. It was the first time we had ever been to the big island and we couldn’t have been more excited. The coaches had scheduled a lot of different activities during their “downtime” and one of them was a visit to tour the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
The day we visited Pearl Harbor was warm and breezy, absolutely beautiful. The soccer team rode together and parents drove separately. The closer we got to Pear Harbor, the more congested traffic became and it wasn’t until we were within sight of the facility that I realized that all the traffic was going to the memorial. After tooling through the entire parking lot, I reluctantly pulled into what I think was the very last space, grabbed my camera and began looking for the team.
The line that had formed to the entrance was ridiculously long. It snaked around into about forty rows before spilling into the parking lot and down the sidewalk by the highway. I couldn’t believe so many people were here to see Pearl Harbor. It was so long it was picture worthy, so while we took pictures outside, the lines progressed rather quickly and before long, we were inside the visitor’s center.
Once inside, there’s literature available to explain and help you understand all that took place on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor and many exhibits with actual artifacts on display. While waiting to view a film of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I noticed an elderly man, dressed in uniform, greeting tourists and giving autographs. Watching him, I felt insensitive by my prior infantile comprehension of history. This man, who was alive, volunteering his time at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, actually lived and experienced the actual attack of Pearl Harbor, the beginning of World War II. This was probably a time of his life that many would shut out of their memory, yet he’s sharing it with others.
The film that we watched contained actual footage of the Pearl Harbor attack. Afterward, we boarded a shuttle boat that took us to the USS Arizona Memorial. There was a reverent atmosphere; talking was done in whispers. I cannot describe the feeling and the tone among everyone. It was almost as though the Pearl Harbor attack had recently happened.
The USS Arizona Memorial is a floating memorial that was built over the sunken hull of the actual Battleship USS Arizona. This memorial is like a floating shrine as many of the ship’s brave soldier’s are buried with the sunken battleship below. A room within the floating memorial contains a marble wall that has the names of all the men who lost their lives on the Battleship USS Arizona. In reading the names, there’s a certain wale of emotion within. No, I didn’t know them, but they were fathers, sons, husbands, daughters, mothers, and children of someone. So many names that came face to face with war.
There are parts of the ship that slightly protrude above the water and if you look closely, you can see the shadows formed by parts of the sunken ships below the waters. Looking out over the rest of the harbor you can see markers in the water that represent other ships that sank when Pearl Harbor was attacked. On December 7, 1941, the overall death toll exceeded 2,300, which included approximately 70 civilians and left over 1,100 injured. Standing at this harbor, for everything you can and cannot see, you imagine; and as you do it’s very difficult not to be solemnly touched. This feeling is a feeling of honor for those who died for us.
I left the Pearl Harbor Memorial that day changed by history, and with a regret of the lack of knowledge I had on the subject. I also left with a book that I purchased in the gift shop, Day of Infamy, by Walter Lord, which I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in Pearl Harbor, the beginning of WWII.
To honor those who lived, fought and died for us, we can offer support through the National Veteran’s Foundation or if you would like to support the Memorial at Pearl Harbor, you may do so by visiting the following website: www.pearlharbormemorial.com