This morning I wake up at the ungodly hour of 5AM. If I’m going all the way to Pearl Harbor today, I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss the window when tickets are still available. I’ve discovered that most days they are out of tickets around 10AM. The gates open at 7AM and it doesn’t close until 5PM. Better safe than sorry I guess, and just about every blog on the internet suggested arriving before 7AM.
Because I can’t think straight enough to take the bus and manage transfers this early in the morning I take a cab to the USS Arizona Memorial. The driver asks me where I’m from. I say Boston. “Oh Boston. I love the girls in Boston. They’re really aggressive. They’ll tell you how it is. And I love that accent.” O good. The next 30 minutes or so are spent uncomfortably laughing at my driver’s pretty unfunny jokes. Another one he thought was pretty good was, “O culture? Ah…I say just put culture in a petri dish and let someone else analyze it. I’m living it right now! History? Ah…they say if you don’t know the past you’re doomed the repeat it? People live, people die. That’s it! I’m living right now, history’s not gonna change that.” Ok. You get the idea.
I get to the ticket line around 6:45AM and there are probably 50 people in line already. When the gates open I get a ticket to the first tour of the memorial at 8AM. After doing all of things I can do for free (going through the little museums and walking around the memorial garden area) it’s about 8. The tour starts off in a little theater with very comfortable seats…uh oh. Let me repeat, I woke up at 5 this morning. I get a little dozy in the middle of the film, but for the most part it’s actually very good and keeps me up the whole time (a pretty big feat considering how tired I am).
All of the footage is real, nothing is acted. It does a good job of setting up the attack on Pearl Harbor and the resulting war in 26 minutes (or something like that). After the movie ends we all get onto a navy shuttle to zip over the memorial.
The memorial is built on top of the sunken USS Arizona which was hit by the Japanese torpedos in the first wave of attacks. The men on board were completely unsuspecting. There was a band concert that night so you can just imagine all the people enjoy some music in the theater being hit suddenly by an attack. Hundreds of these men are still onboard below the moment. The moment is also a tomb for these men and we are told to be respectful of that.
The monument itself is an abstract, funky, white, open-air building that’s just above the ship. You can see out the windows of this structure onto the ship below. Pieces of the ship stick up above the water and you can see the top deck just below the water. Interestingly, the ship is still leaking gas. You can see the gas in the water. On a pamphlet I read earlier in the day they said they would do something about it if the amount increased and it became dangerous. I think gas leaking in general is pretty dangerous, but I guess they wouldn’t have put a memorial that thousands of people visit a day on top of it if it weren’t safe.
At the end of the monument there is a listing of the names of those who died onboard the Arizona. I scan for any of my family names, in case there might be a relative we don’t know about, and, seeing none, take in more of the surroundings. There is a guard rail in front of the names and some people have hung lei on the post. That’s another thing I haven’t mentioned. At the graveyards around Oahu people often put lei down instead of bouquets and the same thing is done here.
It’s very breezy on the monument and I walk around for a little while, happy to have the chance to be on the water and a little cooler than land temperature. When our launch comes back we board pretty quickly and head back to the museum. Because I have a lot to do today I don’t stick around for some of the other museums that cost money (although I would have liked to see the air force museum). I think it’s really great that the USS Arizona Memorial is free for the public. They get you in the gift shop though to make up for it.
I’ve already bought too many books and they get me on another one. I also buy a replica of a 1940s “Remember Pearl Harbor” pin, which has a pearl rather than the word pearl on the clip. I can’t help myself from grabbing a Rosie the Riveter pocket mirror on the way out as well and that puts me at $20 so I also get a free Honolulu newspaper from December 7th.
I take the bus back to Kailua, doing a transfer in downtown Honolulu and get back home around noon. I thought there was a convenient store next to the Safeway nearby where I could get a new duffle bag for another carry-on, but no such luck. I’ll look in Waikiki tomorrow and just use recyclable shopping bags for the time being.