Several years ago as a member of the US Navy Reserves I went on temporary duty to Hawaii. During my two weeks there I had the privilege of visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. I once
wrote of my experience that all the noise around me disappeared. The only thing I could feel was the energy of the memorial, of the ship below the water, the rainbow of oil slowly seeping out and the madness from that clear blue sky day on December 7, 1941. Even as I recount it now I am overcome with the moment I stood over that ship. That ship with bodies never recovered. That ship with only a handful of survivors left with the option of being entombed before the hatch is forever sealed. That ship, a reminder of the losses America took on what many believe was an unprovoked attack by the Japanese. Some would argue there were conspiracies that the US knew the Japanese fleet was coming. Some would argue that it was ignored to get us into the fight. No matter what, the truth lies beneath that beautiful Hawaiian water in the destruction of one of many vessels destroyed and damaged that day.
The first picture is from the museum before you get to the Arizona. It is cropped because, as I was taking the photo, a little Spanish or maybe Hawaiian girl hung on the glass box looking at the display. I wonder if she understood what she was seeing. I wonder if the trip would be more than just a "my family and I went to Hawaii once" kind of memory. I wonder if she felt the pressure
of the memory like I did as I sat over the bright bulkheads and openings of the ship just below the waves. Or was she just hoping to get back to the beach and play in the sand like most of us when we were kids? I type and I wonder.
I don't know what the little girl was thinking or feeling. I don't know what stories her father, mother, grandparents or whomever she was with was telling her about it. Maybe the person was a survivor. Maybe just a passing tourist that looked up "things to do in Hawaii" on the computer and decided to try out the USS Arizona Memorial. What I do know is that I sit here sipping coffee feeling weighed down in my chair knowing I HAVE TO write this post. I have to. And it makes me think of the time I stood above that ship with all the noise fading from the moment. Maybe I have to tell it for the little girl who hung on a memorial staring at a mock ship that is less than half a mile from where she was standing.
Every year I try to remember these events that shape our nation and the world. Every year I try to speak for those who were lost. Every year, if time and ability allows, I write what I think and what I feel about the events. It is hard to explain the feeling as if I am standing on that memorial right now. It is hard to explain how I can hear the faint screams of a day 77 years in the past. It is
hard to explain that I look at this picture of bodies being lined up in plain wooden boxes, one by one by one by one and so on in a mass grave because the casualties were too great, that I can feel that moment for the survivors who are left to do the work. I wonder if the little girl noticed this picture or was she shielded from it. I wonder if she understood at all what the 7 men were doing in the picture. I wonder if I will ever not feel the pain of seeing it, after all I am a proud American who served 22-years in the armed forces of this country. It is hard to explain what I see, feel, smell, hear and experience when I write about this moment that happened 33 years before I was even born. How do you explain the weight of the loss? In fact, this is the weight I feel as I write these words for this blog.
These sailors stand watch over the 1,102 men who died on the USS Arizona. That is the weight. The weight of loss. The weight of life unfulfilled. The weight of wars. The weight of carrying the memory. A list of names, a memorial, a ship under and just above the water, and a forever changed me. And I wonder, what does the little girl think? I also wonder what I may think 10-years from now about this day and this memory. Time is a funny thing. It heals wounds, it makes us wiser, and it changes our perspectives.
See when I went to Pearl Harbor, in the museum there was a playback of radio call from the day of the attack, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" As I walked around the echoes of those words rang. This was before I got to go onto the memorial, mind you. As I walked around and saw the pictures and the displays, the words rang. Several different radio calls rang from different parts of the museum but the Tora! Tora! Tora! was the one that kept echoing to me. I realized as I walked around I was angry. I was angry at the Japanese for such an attack. I was angry at all the Asian people who were there that day at the memorial with me. The plane noises, the explosions noises, the sounds, the feelings and the words Tora! Tora! Tora! all made me angry at Japan. I mumbled to myself "Fuck Japan" as I left to go and catch the ferry to the memorial. It is funny to me now as I write this because I hadn't remembered those moments before right now. I've never recounted the museum feelings. Guess the pressure I feel on me to write this is real. Anyway, let me carry on.
I already spoke about what I felt at the memorial (sometimes I say monument if you hadn't notice... it is the same place as the USS Arizona). An hour or so after I took the boat over to the memorial I returned back to the museum and the radio. I was no longer mad, though. I was sad and hurt at the weight of the room. I was carrying 1,102 souls with me in my spirit. I couldn't focus on the the new feeling towards those words "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Wha