I’ve visited Pearl Harbor just once myself, many years ago. I remember that the most touching and solemn moments (for me) began when we took that little boat ride over to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. I remember being pleasantly surprised at how quiet and respectful everyone was. There were tourists of every age and background, including many Japanese, all curious about our destination out in the harbor. Even all the children aboard (mine included) were quiet and knew that this wasn’t a time for loud talk or play.
Once we reached the memorial, for the most part, everyone remained very quiet and respectful, especially when they neared the back wall of the memorial where large marble plaques are engraved with the names of the 2,800+ servicemen who lost their lives on that fateful day (1,177 killed on the Arizona alone). Walking around, I noticed too, that diesel fuel oil was STILL leaking up from the ship’s hull below, as the Arizona continued to bleed out fresh reminders of that day.
To pay our respects, we had brought some roses along and I let my daughter slowly cast them out, one at a time, over various parts of the ship. This ritual of respect and rememberance proved to be a tangible way for her to connect to why we were there, and I enjoyed watching her go from railing to railing, pause for a moment and then ever so gently, drop a flower down onto the waves below.
I’ll never forget that day. I realized then and doubly so now, that all those sailors and marines, forever entombed inside that giant ship beneath my feet, were but the first of many who would sacrifice their lives on battlefields around the world during the war. They would give up all that they had, and all that they would EVER have, so that their fellow (and future) Americans could grow up FREE from tyranny. I, for one, will ALWAYS…“Remember Pearl Harbor!”