USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
As a writer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I often get to talk with local preservationists and hear about their thoughts, memories, and feelings on places they love. I enjoy telling their stories and getting to feel like a part of something bigger. Today, I have my own story to share.
Three weeks ago, I visited Pearl Harbor, one of our country’s most poignant historic places and one that we are remembering and honoring today.
Stepping through the gates of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii, I felt at once the devastation, terror, and the instant and fierce American pride that encompassed both soldier and civilian that fateful day on December 7, 1941.
Visitors to the park spoke only in hushed tones and whispered to each other the quotes and names recorded throughout the grounds. On the brief boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, conversations stopped, but couples held hands and children sat quietly on laps as we all looked out across the water at the simple, white, beautiful Memorial.
The Arizona Memorial was constructed atop the sunken ship in 1962 to commemorate the more than one thousand men who rest beneath it, but it has come to honor all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Once inside, my breath caught as I thought of the legacies left by so many brave soldiers. I wanted to think about each one individually, giving them the honor they deserve. At the same time, the openness of the structure’s design drew me to the sides to look out at what remains of the original battleship.
We only had a short time on board, and I felt many emotions. I quickly whisked away a tear as I stood trying to picture the instant the bombs hit. I swelled up with pride to be an American and somehow connected to these soldiers. And I felt incredibly grateful to be standing there, a part of history, sharing it with loved ones and complete strangers at the same time.
Our country’s history continues here.
This is what makes me a preservationist.