Many of you probably aren’t fully aware but Hawaii is my 2nd home. I have been traveling to the Aloha State once or twice a year for about 27 years now to visit family that lives on Oahu. I moved to Hawaii when I was 18 to go to college and lived on Oahu for a little more than 5 years. I’ve lived in areas like Saint Louis Heights, Moiliili, and Makiki. Hawaii is magical to me and holds a place very near and dear to my heart.
So much as changed in those 27 years; some things for the good and other things that have been hard to stomach and have been emotional for me. (Most recently the International Marketplace.) Here is a great article about the past and present of the International Marketplace, if you are unaware of what it is/was. It seems every time I visit Hawaii there is this tortured imbalance of many trying to preserving “Old Hawaii” by having to battle shinny new businesses and buildings. Some battles Old Hawaii wins while most they lose. You’ll even hear locals talk about placing being the last of the real or old Hawaii. It’s quite hard to watch as we all know change can be difficult and often times inevitable.
One thing that has been updated but always seem to stay the same, and continues to represent a very important moment in time is Pearl Harbor. I made my first trip to the memorial when I was 6 years old.
I believe I have made about 2 other trips to the site since, with this visit being my 4th. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center went through a large renovation in 2010 and I hadn’t visited since.
The renovation made the center more environmentally friendly, added more acres to the property, and made better use of space for teaching the public about this historical event.
So before I start talking about my experience at the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites I want everyone to understand that these are of course just my opinions and feelings and they are just that… nothing more and nothing less. Most people will experience a variety of emotions when they visit and I feel we’re all given the opportunity to express our own emotions. So you may feel different or similar when you visit the memorial. And I truly hope that my words can pay respect to everyone that was impacted by that tragic day… December 7th 1941.
There are a lot of different things to visit and see at the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites. We picked the free tour to venture out on the water to the memorial over the USS Arizona.
Before you get on the boat you watch a short film that helps to answer many questions about the attack on Pearl Harbor. With actual footage from the day this short film walks you through the events of December 7, 1941.
This is usually where I start crying, however on this trip I stayed crying before I even made it into the theater. As we gathered to walk into the theater a worker from the historical site made a very moving speech. He thanked us for visiting and honoring our fallen heroes, as well as reminded us what it must have been like to lose someone that day. (Did you know there were 23 sets of brothers that died in the USS Arizona attack!?!) His words were so moving that I started shedding tears immediately. I always get so choked up thinking about the lives that were lost. Such young men, so much ahead of them…so quickly taken away from them.
After you watch the video you head out onto the boat to visit the memorial. If you’ve never been to Pearl Harbor and aren’t aware of the memorial, this is where things will get very emotion for you.
The memorial is actually built over the sunken USS Arizona. The battleship lays in the ocean, unmoved from the day she sank. With her rests the bodies of over 900 crew members that were on board that day. She is their tomb..their war grave, they lie within her and you can feel that presence when you set foot on the memorial.
This is a powerful place. A piece of history untouched in the ocean.. now creating a home for the marine life below. It’s so crazy to think that time stands still for the sunken USS Arizona untouched since that day she fell but the life at sea has made her one of their own. Accepting her and her crew as part of the ocean, becoming one with them. You’ll see a variety of beautiful fish that call the USS Arizona home on your visit.
Another things you must look for when visiting is the leaking oil. Still to this day the USS Arizona leaks up to 9 quarts of oil a day. The oil is visible from the memorial. The oil is now monitored to make sure the leak doesn’t cause any catastrophic event. To me the oil leak reminds me just how real this attack was as the oil is often referred to as black tears or tears of the Arizona.
Also make sure to visit the back end of the memorial, known as The Shrine Room, which has a wall dedicated to the 1,177 that lost their lives that day and their is also a list of their brothers who survived but rejoined in their passing . Emotions are sure to rise as you read the names of all the fallen heros. Embrace those feelings… this is an emotional place. This is a memorial, you are here to feel, learn, remember, and honor.
Another important note is that some survivors of the USS Arizona have chosen to rest among side their brothers in their passing. From the image below you can see a diver placing a urn in the USS Arizona. The drivers even say they can feel a pull from the ocean and that is when they knows the ship is accepting one of its own back.
Here are some important tips to make sure you have the best experience possible when visiting Pearl Harbor.
- You can visit the USS Arizona Memorial for free. It’s a good idea to book in advance. However 1,300 tickets are available each day at 7:00am for the next day. These tickets go VERY fast!
- Your FREE tour includes access to the visitor center, the museum, viewing the Pearl Harbor documentary, and boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial.
- Ticketing information.
- NO bags are allowed at all. (This includes purses, backpacks, fanny packs, you name it)
- Parking is free but arrive early because sometimes it’s difficult to find a spot.
- More information on visiting so you can be prepared!
- Prepare for your trip, brush up on your Pearl Harbor history. You’ll enjoy the experience more if you just spend a little bit of time catching up on that history lesson you fell asleep during in your high school history class. This may help!
- Remember this is a memorial. Keep your voice down, put away your cell phone, and show your respect.
I leave you with this quote which I think is perfect for remembering Pearl Harbor.
“No day shall erase you from the memory of time” -Virgil