I did not lose any family members on December 7th, 1941. In fact, it wasn’t until after that day that my family became part of the last World War. It was because of December 7th that my grandfather left his wife and newborn son. I never heard stories about the sound of the bombers, I never went to visit the watery grave of an ancestor, I never for a moment thought of Pearl Harbor as anything more than what it was: a pinnacle turning point in American and the world’s history. That is, until I set foot inside the memorial which is built over top of the coral encrusted ruins of the sunken USS Arizona. Once I entered into that tomb like enclosure, I could feel the overwhelming desire to cry welling up inside of me. Suddenly, American History became my history. Suddenly, those names etched into the marble wall were names I recognized. Their deaths were no longer just oblivious statistics. I was walking over top of the grave of over 1,000 men who were killed by one strategically placed, armor piercing bomb.
Before we boarded the ferry to take us out into the middle of the harbor, we were asked to keep our voices low and to keep conversation to a minimum while at the memorial in respect for the dead. I found that a simple task as the overwhelming feeling of sadness and pain and respect, all balled into one huge lump in my throat, left me speechless. There were no gorey details to be seen, there were no signs of the bodies who are entombed inside of the tons of steel which barely peeps out above the calm harbor waters. Yet, there was a feeling in the air, almost as if those who fell knew how poweful and spectacular their sacrifices had become, and they knew that every pair of feet that walked across their ships sunken deck were there to thank them. To let them know that they had not died in vain, and to let them know that they will never be forgotten. Those souls still hover near their final resting place, the air bristles with electricity, and even amongst thousands of visitors and cell phones, there was almost utter silence. All that was heard were the clicks of cameras as people photographed rusty pieces of ship intruding on the placid surface of the water and the footfalls of men lost long ago.
As always, there are a few more details and some additional photographs on my flickr page, please don’t hesitate to check them out.