Jul 23 2008

Pearl Harbor

Published by at 1:59 am under Hawaii,Oahu

We spent two nights on Oahu so that we could see some of the local sights before flying out of Honolulu. At the top of our list was Pearl Harbor.

It’s hard for me to write about my experience at Pearl Harbor. I could write a factual account of what we saw, but that would fail to capture the meaning and emotion of the visit. I’m sure each visitor experiences something different at a place like this. I will try to tell you some of my thoughts without sounding overly sappy or sentimental.

One of the first things that struck me was the sheer multitude of visitors of every age, race and nationality. The National Park Service says that the USS Arizona Memorial gets about 4,500 visitors per day. I was very happy to see lots of families there, and though the youngest kids may not have fully understood what they were seeing, I generally got the sense that they knew they were someplace where they needed to be respectful, and needed to pay attention. The older kids certainly seemed to be interested in the exhibits in the visitor center, which I was pleasantly surprised at.

The visitor center and the USS Arizona Memorial visit was very well done, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that the kids were so engaged – I was too. One of the things that really made this a special visit was that they conveyed a significant amount of information through personal stories (not unlike Ken Burns’ “The War”, which was an amazing TV series on WWII and if you haven’t put the time investment into seeing it, I highly recommend it).

We heard stories from Pearl Harbor survivors on the audio tour (which was nicely done), and we read some other stories of both survivors as well as others who died during the attack. The park also has five Pearl Harbor survivor volunteers who work there at various times during the week. We met and chatted with one of the survivors named Everett Hyland. He has a fascinating story, and he was a delightful man to talk to as well. I am so glad to have met him and learned about his story. Click here to see a picture and read a short article about him – I thought it captured his story and personality well.

I am happy we spent extra time on Oahu to see the memorial. I expected that the visit would be moving, but I did not expect to be as engaged by the exhibits as I was. While we were there, we learned that there are plans to expand the visitor center and museum to include more personal stories and artifacts from the many families that have reached out to the park service after having been to visit the memorial themselves. It’s great to see people interested in preserving and sharing family memories so that others may learn about — and learn from — the past.

– Meredith


A family looks at the list of names of the nearly 1200 people who died on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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