Monday, March 18, 2013

Patriotic Pearl Harbor

December 7 1941. It's a date I learned in a history class in high school.  It's also a date I won't ever forget.  I remember the awe and sadness I felt as I learned about this tragic date and the events surrounding it.  
When Jeff and I came to Oahu on our honeymoon Jeff wanted to go see all the historic sights on the island and  that's mostly what we did, but the only place I remember is Pearl Harbor.  Mostly what I remember is standing out at the memorial site and the quiet hush of the tourists and the silent sacredness of the site where the USS Arizona rests just below the water. 

I couldn't bring my family to the island without giving them the opportunity to learn and feel this piece of American history. I'd made reservations well in advance, but two days before we came I got an email letting me know that due to the sequester, the government had decided to shut down the site 3 hours early daily.  Our tour time fell during those hours and would need to be rescheduled.
We tried to come on Sunday, but everything was sold out, and supposedly was for the next week.  They told us because of our time cancellation though that we would have priority.  So a few days later we came back.  Luckily they were very accommodating and got all 12 of us in to a time slot about 45 minutes after we had arrived.
In the mean time we were all drawn in to reading the stories of several other vessels that had taken part in WWII and were lost durning the war.
The huge missiles that surrounded the plaques were pretty impressive as was the massive anchor that had been recovered from the USS Arizona
Drew and Harrison were pretty impressed with the huge submarine that was at the site as well
Brynne had so many questions about what had happened during the war and who were the bad guys again?  I did my best to answer but I could tell she was still a bit overwhelmed by everything.
In answering her questions as best I could and after reading the stories of so many war heroes, those same feelings of awe and sadness at what had happened filled me just like they did in my high school history class and almost 17 years ago on my honeymoon.
Carie and I got to talking about just how devastating war is and the gratitude we feel for those who selflessly serve our country.  I felt not so guilty for pulling my kids out of school to come on our trip.  What they would learn on this day was better than sitting in any classroom.
The tour starts off with a video explaining what was happening in the world just prior to the attack and then explains exactly what happened that day.  Even with all of the kids in the theater it was silent as the movie played and the images of destruction flashed across the screen.
Unfortunately Brynne fell asleep and missed half of the movie.  I was hoping seeing it like that would answer some of her questions better.  Her biggest concern now however, was that there were dead bodies in that ship in the ocean.  She was very concerned about what it they slipped out, and how far away were the beaches that we swim in. As we pulled up Brynne said to me, "Mom if any water from anywhere around here splashes up and gets on me at all, even a tily little drip, I'm seriously going to freak out!"
So perhaps quite a bit of the experience was lost on Brynne, but the other kids got it.  
I love this picture of Garrett looking down at the ship below the memorial.  His expression conveys the emotions felt here.
The wall with all the names is impressive, but what fascinated me most was something Carie pointed out.   Just in front of the wall with the names is a short block with a list on names of officers who survived the attack at Pearl Harbor but had asked to be interred with their shipmates on the USS Arizona.  
As I stood in the memorial I tried to picture Pearl Harbor as it was that morning before the attack what it must have been like with all the ships and their crews.  
It's hard to take the images I had just seen on the screen and place them in the quiet that is heard and felt  in that same location so many years later.
  I was sitting next to Drew on the boat ride back from the memorial when he grabbed my phone and said, "Come on mom I'm taking a picture of us, hashtag duck face, peace out Pearl Harbor". I obliged as I recognized his desire to add a bit of levity to an other wise somber morning.  
It is a heavy thing to think about and remember, but its a part of the fabric of our great nations history.   War is big and hard and the effects are lasting.  So many sacrificed so much.  It makes me appreciate life as I know it, a little bit more.  So yes, for now, peace out Pearl Harbor.

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