If you know me at all, you know I am quite the history buff. My fiendish love affair began clear back in the 1st grade when I eagerly devoured the American Girl stories. I would stay up way past bedtime using one of those little clip-on book lights (nerd alert!) and hide under the covers so my parents wouldn’t catch on to my blatant rule breaking. I literally spent hours daydreaming of everything from the American Revolution to growing a Victory Garden of my own. My whole life’s ambition was to own an American Girl doll that I could dress up in her very own bonnet and corset. Sadly, my dreams were never realized. I am still trying to recover.
Thus it will come as no surprise to you that I absolutely HAD to go to Pearl Harbor while we were in Hawaii. Being the scatter-brained soul I am, I totally forgot to reserve tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial. I was devastated. I owe my life to a pretty helpful concierge who found out that there are a few tickets reserved for walk-ins…but we would have to be in line at 6:30 AM if we were going to have a shot at it. So Sunday morning we woke up early, grabbed a little breakfast to go and headed over to what felt like my destiny.I’ll have you know that getting there was quite the battle. First our GPS led us straight to the active military base in Pearl Harbor. You would have thought the barbed wire for miles would have tipped us off, but alas, we ended up at these intimidating guarded gates only to be turned away. Oops. Then at 6:45 AM we found ourselves on a highway that was abruptly closed for a triathlon. Needless to say, I may or may not have uttered a few choice words. My history love runs deep so thinking that we might not make it in time set my blood boiling. What more can I say?
At 6:45 we pulled up to the memorial, only to see a line the length of a football field wrapped around the buildings and down the street. I about cried. The angels of mercy must have been looking out for us, because we somehow still got tickets.
The next few hours were spent in a haze of stories, audio tours, and the building of my appreciation for the men and women who serve us and our homeland. Really, I thought my beating American heart might burst from the pure pride and gratitude I felt as story after story of heroism and valor poured out of the audio headsets and into my soul.
A few hours into the day, it was time for us to catch the ferry boat to the USS Arizona. I have to tell you, it was kind of eerie. And also reverent. I really don’t remember a single person calling out or causing a distraction the whole trip. The need to pay tribute to such hallowed ground seemed to permeate each and every tourist on that boat. The names of those still entombed in the Arizona stand quietly etched into a white marble wall, surrounded by leis from visitors and the bright ocean air. You could almost feel their presence wafting in through the entrance. Apparently a few quarts of oil escape from the sunken battleship every day, streaking the water. Those who survived call them “black tears”. Fitting, I think.
Later that day we toured a submarine and rode a shuttle through the tropical rain to visit the airfields. All I can tell you is that I had the movie Pearl Harbor heavy on my mind and I kept envisioning Ryan in a pilot’s uniform. He was pretty much my very own Ben Affleck that afternoon. It was pretty sexy.
The USS Missouri is a fitting place to end this drawn out description of one of my favorite Hawaiian days. Standing on the very spot the Japanese army unconditionally surrendered was, in a word, humbling. May we never forget the lives that were so freely given to bring an end to the most devastating war our world has ever seen.