[Slideshow] Remembering Pearl Harbor: A Personal Reflection

Posted on: December 7th, 2012 by Emily Potter 1 Comment

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.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

Reflections, Slideshows

One Response

  1. Kevin Tremble

    December 9, 2012

    My family and I just returned to New Jersey from a Thanksgiving visit to Hawaii, and a special moment at the Arizona Memorial. For several moments I followed the rainbow-like slick of the ship’s fuel as it surfaced, slowly released from the hull; as I caught scent of the fuel on the warm breeze, I looked downwind to follow the dispersing sheen, the sun broke through and lit the USS Missouri. The souls of those we recall there must know how hard our country fought to recover and return to peace. How dark a day it was for them. As I left the memorial I raised a salute, and turned with full eyes to board the launch. In those moments, like Emily, I was saddened, yet proud of and thankful for those who followed with such resolve. A special thanks to the US Navy, National Park Service, Pacific Historic Parks and all those who have labored to preserve and present this story for us.
    In our efforts to preserve our cultural heritage, we encounter those places of rememberance that encompass the built and the natural. These places that bear witness of great struggle and sacrifice are so important to understanding our national patrimony. With each struggle anew, it has enormous civic value to appreciate how others before us have, in the words of Thomas Paine, overcome “…the times that try men’s souls…”