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Arizona Memorial Experience

December 14, 2016

Waves lap against the side of the slow moving boat. Rain falls from the bleak sky, covering the boat passengers in water. As the boat pulls to the other side of Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial comes into view. The memorial is simple but has a powerful effect on those who visit it. The small building straddles the USS Arizona, but does not actually touch it. Before my group disembarks, the tour guide tells us to wait, and brings everyone’s attention to an older man that is leaving the boat. He sits in a motorized wheelchair and wears a veteran’s hat. The tour guide informs us the man is a veteran of the Pearl Harbor bombings. After a moment of stunned silence, everyone on the boat applauds the man. Once he is safely off the boat, the rest of us exit. As I make my way up the ramp, I am stunned into silence. Looking over the rails, I can see parts of the Arizona sticking up from the waves. Above the entrance, the words USS Arizona Memorial are written in gold. The U.S. flag flies half-mast as it is December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor’s anniversary. As my tour group enters, I am amazed by the memorial. The beautiful building is very open, many parts of the white walls cut away to see the harbor. All around, wreaths are displayed on stands, wreaths that commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Pearl Harbor bombing. Looking out through the holes of the memorial, a part of the Arizona can be seen. Looking closer, I notice the water around the sunken ship, shimmering like a rainbow. Then I remember that, even after seventy-five years, the battleship is still leaking oil. As I make my way to the back of the memorial, I come to a hole cut in the floor, circled by a silver railing. Peering into this hole, I am able to see more of the Arizona and what it has become. After being in the water for so long, the ship has become something like a coral reef, with marine life making their homes in the coral that grows from the ship. After some time looking at the reef, I finally make my way to the very back of the memorial, the most important part

of the building. In a small room, inscribed in the stone wall, are the names of each of the fallen, victims of the Pearl Harbor bombings. On that wall are the names of soldiers, nurses, and crew members who died in the attack. In here, there are more wreaths and everyone is silent, paying their respects. The area parts as the veteran enters the room, standing with a walker, in order to pay respects to his fallen friends. I notice that, written on stone that is separate from the wall with names, are names of soldiers that survived the bombing and died much later in their life. As I board the boat that will take the group back to the Pearl Harbor museum, I remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt: “Pearl Harbor—may we never forget.”

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