Visiting Pearl Harbor on the Anniversary of 9/11
When my wife and I chose to get married on Friday September 7, 2007 I had no idea that it would inadvertently lead us to stand in a sacred place on an equally sacred day.
Once our wedding date was set and the topic of a honeymoon was broached, I immediately insisted that we go to Hawaii. Of course it is a beautiful tropical paradise full of fun things to do but that was just the icing on the cake. As a passionate reader and student of World War II history, I could not care less about an all-inclusive resort in any of the usual list of tropical tourist trap towns. I wanted to go to Pearl Harbor and visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
As bad luck would have it, we never made it to Hawaii on the first day of our honeymoon. Our plane was hit by a flock of birds just before it would have lifted off the ground in Sioux Falls. We missed our connection in Minneapolis and didn’t arrive in Honolulu until the next day.
Had we arrived as planned, on Sunday September 9, I would have insisted we go to Pearl Harbor the next day. Since we did not land in Honolulu until after 10:00 A.M. on Monday September 10, we would not have had time to go and take in all the sights before the park closed at 4:30 P.M.
I don’t recall when that day we realized it, but I do remember one of us saying something to the effect of: “Wow. We’re going to be at Pearl Harbor on 9/11.”
I don’t mean to be inappropriate when I say I was excited to visit Pearl Harbor, but I was. That excitement resolved itself to reserved respect as soon as we got off the tour bus. A somber tone permeated the air. This was even more evident during the boat ride from the shore to the Arizona. The tour guide reminded us over the loudspeaker that we were not just visiting a shipwreck, it was a graveyard for most of the 1,177 crew members killed in the attack on December 7, 1941.
The uniqueness of visiting Pearl Harbor on the sixth anniversary of 9/11 is hard to describe. I have never been to New York and visited Ground Zero, but I had seen it from dozens of different angles with all of the modern media that existed in 2001. Conversely I was standing at the location where the once proud U.S.S. Arizona stood when it violently exploded, captured by one fuzzy black and white motion picture camera.
Taking the photo of the American flag flying at half staff over the memorial was something I really remember well. I felt so proud and patriotic to stand at the site of the first terrible modern attack on the anniversary of the second.