Sunday, December 7, 1941. A date President Franklin D. Roosevelt would soon refer to as “…the date which will live in infamy.” With Oahu’s beautiful Pearl Harbor lying under thick smoke and fire from that morning’s surprise attack, the president penned his declaration of war. He delivered his famous infamy speech via radio to our nation the very next day.
Just in case you are wondering, Merriam-Webster.com defines infamy as “evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal.” War, and the events that bring about war, definitely match that definition. But when such wars are over, when we’ve accounted for our losses and begin to move past grief, we look for ways to honor our fallen. To seek closure and peace. Holidays and memorials can help us with that.
Paying our respects
The USS Arizona Memorial (located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii), is one of the most popular tourist attractions for our 50th state, hosting approximately 2 million visitors annually. Knowing we would be on Oahu for a few days prior to the start of our cruise, I moved this bucket list item of mine to the top, and made plans to visit the memorial. It was an easy sell for my family members too.
My connection to this infamous date of attack is a small one. My grandmother’s best friend was a nurse stationed in Pearl Harbor. To my young ears, she described the event as absolute chaos. My husband had relatives in the military at the time, but no one stationed in Hawaii. Our daughter’s connection was only what she learned in school. But we all felt drawn to this place.
An active military base, the rotation of tour groups from the theater to the tour boat was smooth and punctual. The documentary was short, but very impactful. It left us with some perspective on that historic day’s horrific events; some things to ponder as we approached the actual site of the memorial. Like learning that most of the USS Arizona’s victims had “won” the opportunity to sleep in that morning. Or understanding that the oil–still leaking from the sunken ship–will continue to leak for years to come. And just how many other US military ships–and lives–were lost that day.
The memorial itself–a white open air structure placed squarely above the sunken ship–can receive about 200 people at a time. It’s design allowed us to see parts of the ship, the leaking oil, and all around the harbor. We were in awe. As our tour boat made its way back to the visitor center, I asked my daughter what she felt. She said, “Peace.” Those who perished were now at rest.
Peace, according to Merriam-Webster.com, means, “a state of tranquility or quiet: such as a) freedom from civil disturbance, or b) a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom.” A feeling the designers, creators, builders, and financiers of such memorials are hoping to give us when we visit their structures. Structures dedicated to the those who died for our country, either in direct military service, law enforcement, civic duty, or citizens and visitors whose lives were taken simply because they were there.
On your next trip to Hawaii–even if it’s your first trip there–I recommend paying a visit, and your respects, to the USS Arizona. Spend a good chunk of your day at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. You will leave with your own sense of peace.
What are some memorials that stand out to you? What was your reason for the visit? What did you come away with? Large or small, memorials are a quiet, important tribute to events in our past. And they serve as a reminder for our future: to always work for peace. J 🗽