Chinese New Year Adventure... far from anything Chinese
Public schools in Taiwan recess for Winter Break for three weeks in January to celebrate the incoming year. Many Chinese people travel to their native homes during the holiday time; many vacation in Japan. One of the results of all this travel in 2012, the Year of the Dragon, was the largest human migration ever that took place on the eve of the New Year, Saturday, Jan. 21. Marie, Keith and I were part of that human migration, but our destination was a bit different from that of most of the people in Taiwan; we flew to Oahu, Hawaii. While the main purpose of the trip was to meet up with my son's family and enjoy a week together… which we did most successfully in that tropical island paradise, a side trip on our third day to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor will hold lasting memories for me.
After obtaining the free tickets to visit the U. S. S. Arizona Memorial, we watched a 23 minute film that dramatically depicted the December 7, 194l, attack on Pearl Harbor. The film set the quiet, almost somber mood for the shuttle boat trip, compliments of the U. S. Navy, across the harbor. Stepping aboard the floating memorial to the sunken battleship the U.S.S. Arizona was awe inspiring. The simplicity of the beautiful white structure belies the gruesomeness of that December day. The first room, the Flag Room, holds on one side the flags of all of the battleships present on Battleship Row the day of the attack; flags on the other side of the room are the flags of the U.S., Hawaii, and each of the United States Armed Forces. The middle room is open on both sides and at the top. Gazing down on either side of the memorial you can see the Arizona below, quietly ensconced in layers of sea life but still discernible; remains of her gun turrets break the surface of the water. A United States flag flies above the Memorial, attached to a severed mainmast of the Arizona. Though several dozen people visit the structure at one time, the quiet atmosphere of respect and awe is nearly palpable. People move quietly from one area to another taking in the details and memories of what happened to the U.S.S. Arizona and its crew. We learned that over 900 U. S. service members remain entombed in the ship below, and in the Shrine Room at the far end of the memorial, a wall of remembrance dedicated to these men lists their names and ranks. Fresh flowers and leis lie at the base of the wall left by its many visitors, honoring those fallen Americans.
The Arizona Memorial inspires contemplation of the horrors and destruction of that long ago day and the sacrifices so many Americans made for our country. On a sunny day in January 2012, it's hard to realize the dramatic events that unfolded that day, creating such havoc and loss of life on this very spot in 1941.
There is much to see in the remainder of the park, static displays and museums as well as memorials to other important ships; the National Park Service deserves commendations for creating a beautiful and lasting place for Americans and visitors from all over the world to take in the sights and honor those who've served our country. If you haven't had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor, put it on your bucket list. It's an amazing site that you'll never forget.