My Family’s Visit to Oahu • March 2018 • Part 4
It simply wouldn’t be a family vacation without some historic sites thrown in! When we were kids, we used to take 2+ week long trips to visit family and friends on the East coast, and dad would always throw in some historic sites — battlefields, forts, homes of significant historical figures. For a homeschooled family, these vacations would double as field trips! Reminiscing over those days is what lead me to plan a trip to Gettysburg and Antietam last year, and I’m thankful that we’ve still been able to see more together even after I got married and moved away — such as Lexington and Concord, Boston, Saratoga Battlefield, and Fort Sumter!
Our historic site for this trip wasn’t quite as old as those on the East coast, but instead focused on an event that doesn’t seem so long ago: the attack on Pearl Harbor. There are several sites affiliated with the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites here on Oahu: the Arizona Memorial, the Bowfin Submarine, the USS Missouri Battleship, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Because of time constraints and cost of admission for some of these, we opted to see only the Arizona Memorial today. It’s free to visit (a good thing for a family of 7) but tickets sell out quickly. I was able to snag some online so we didn’t have to show up right at opening.
Curtis and I actually visited this together last fall while we were living on Ford Island. When we went, we showed up on a Sunday afternoon, walked right in, were handed 2 tickets to the memorial, and had a memorable experience. I learned that this isn’t typical though — today, parking was scarce and there was a long line even to enter the main site. I picked up tickets for our reservation and we made our way to the theater, where the hour-long tour begins.
The AZ Memorial tour starts with a film that does a great job of discussing what happened on December 7, 1941, the events leading up to it that prompted the attack, how the US was unprepared, and how they picked themselves up afterwards. It is very effective in describing the unexpected and devastating loss of lives, which in turn leads to a sobering and contemplative ride out to the memorial, where you stand over what’s left of the USS Arizona and the grave of over a thousand sailors and marines. Both times I have experienced this, I have left feeling the depth of the event, imagining what it must have felt to be the families of those sailors knowing they gave the ultimate sacrifice.
And yet when I visit, I look around and see some tourists seemingly unaffected by the film, and I don’t understand it. They pose for pictures and take selfies — “Here’s me standing over the place where over a thousand lives were lost in an instant!” I don’t mean to judge, but it seems inappropriate. But maybe I’m overly sensitive knowing my husband works nearby, knowing that things like this can happen any time, and living on this tiny island in the Pacific that has regular missile siren tests (as well as some unplanned ones…).
Anyway, I digress. After our tour, we walked along the shore, reading the plaques and learning more about these events. We went for lunch at a restaurant right next to the visitor’s center parking lot called 604. Curtis and I went several times while living on Ford Island and highly recommend it. We ate our fill of delicious Hawaiian plate lunches complete with macaroni salad and rice, with plenty to take home as well.
Next, I gave a brief tour of Ford Island, where Curtis and I lived in a hotel for our first 2 months on the island. It was my first time returning since the morning we became homeowners. I showed them the hotel and giant dog park where I’d take Charlotte at least once a day. Along the West side is the USS Utah memorial, and the USS Missouri battleship and the USS Oklahoma memorial are on the East side. Then just for fun, I drove past the biggest banyan tree we’ve seen yet. I remember living on this island and feeling discouraged and trapped in the heart of the harbor, but seeing these highlights reminded me of the best parts of being here — being able to walk outside and be surrounded by history!
Finally, it was time for the part I was most excited for — Curtis was returning with the sub he’d been riding, and we were able to watch them sail into the harbor! I was glad my family got to experience this too, and get a taste of what my reality is like. We celebrated that night with garlic fried shrimp and bombarding Curtis with all the questions they had to which I had answered “I don’t know for sure, you’ll have to ask Curtis!” Of course, lots of answers were something along the lines of “I can’t tell you that,” but it was good to have him back all the same. 🙂 They all got a taste of what reality is also like when he had to go right back to work the next morning, followed by every day that week…let’s just say I was very glad to still have family here to keep me busy so that the long work week would go by faster!