"" Writer's Wanderings: June 29, 1992--Remembering Pearl Harbor

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

June 29, 1992--Remembering Pearl Harbor

 [This remains one of the most profound moments in all of our travel experiences. For a little nicer story I wrote about it you might want to read: In Living Tribute]

Monday, June 29, 1992

              Pearl Harbor. It has always held intrigue and mystery for me. We visit the submarine Bowfin while we await our time for the visit to the Arizona. The Bowfin is a World War II sub. It amazes us that men could have operated in the cramped quarters let alone lived in them and then to imagine being below the surface of the sea. . . .
              At the prescribed time, we enter a theater to view an informational movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor. As we sit with busloads of Japanese tourists who have just arrived from the airport, still wearing their fresh leis, we listen to the park ranger speak reverently of the monument we are about to visit.
              Discomfort sets in as I watch the movie explain the Japanese plot to attack the American naval base. Sitting in the middle of Japanese tourists, I watch the old movie clips of the bombing, the destruction, the loss of life. Emotions rise in me that I never knew were there. What do “they” feel? Why are “they” here? This is our memorial. I chide myself. It was our fathers and grandfathers who fought this war, not us. This was not our war. The thoughts help a little.
              It is a silent group of people that we leave with to board the small naval boat that will take us out to the USS Arizona. Obviously we have all been touched somehow. On the boat trip we are again told that this is a memorial and we should be respectful of that. Nothing except flowers may be thrown into the water.
              In the memorial itself, I look out over the base of gun turret #3 that is the only part of the ship rising above the water. A buoy marks the end of the bow and another, the stern. Through the clear water I can see the silent tomb below. As I stand, lost in thought, I am suddenly aware again of the Japanese with us. Each is removing the flower lei from their neck and dropping it in the water. Even the little children, without hesitation, are giving up their adornment. Quietly the pastel colored rings of flowers float out over the length of the ship. I brush away a tear. What a touching tribute they have given. My heart warms again.
              We drive and explore more of Oahu, finding an underwater preserve where many are snorkeling and diving. It is actually the base of a volcanic crater. One side has been broken through by the sea. We walk down the steep road to the beach but opt for a trolly ride back up.
              The Benihana is a Japanese steak house. Our companion diners around the table are two brothers from Minnesota just beginning their vacation in the Hawaiian Islands. Their itinerary includes snorkeling, a few nights on Maui, a luau, a helicopter trip over the big island of Hawaii to see the volcanoes, and a deep sea fishing trip. I am almost envious not knowing exactly what lies ahead for us in Australia.
              Bob and I stroll the little shopping mall in the Hilton Hawaiian Village at Waikiki after dinner. We are inside the lobby without even realizing it. There is almost no demarcation between inside and outside. Is the weather always so perfect that they never need protecting walls and doors?
              The sun is beginning to set. This will be our last leisurely evening in Honolulu. I begin to feel nostalgic. Then as if tempting, beckoning us to stay, the sunset bursts forth with a brilliant sensation of yellows, golds, oranges, pinks, reds, purples, all as a backdrop to the black silhouettes of palms on the beach. I am standing in the middle of a postcard—this cannot ne real. But it is. I whisper a quiet “Aloha.”

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