Friday, September 6, 2013

Hawai'i: Pearl Harbor

This will be the last post about my trip to Hawai'i in July. And it's by far the most important.

Like most Americans, I grew up knowing about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. "December 7, 1941--a day that will live in infamy." I knew that this surprise attack brought America into World War 2.  I saw the movie "Tora, Tora, Tora" as a kid. I saw "Pearl Harbor" as an adult.

I've always known about Pearl Harbor. But I never knew how much it would impact me to actually go there.

As I visited the exhibit halls, I got a better feel for how devastating this attack was. What an absolute surprise it was. Photographs, film clips, and artifacts on display helped me understand what it was like for the people who were there--and the people who lived in the aftermath.

One artifact I'll never forget: the white uniform of a naval pharmacist, covered with blood.

Another: the radar that showed the Japanese planes coming in. It was ignored. They thought the incoming planes were a flock of birds.

After walking through the exhibits, we boarded a boat that took us over to the USS Arizona Memorial. This structure stands in memory of the 1,177 officers and crewmen who died in the attack. Most of them are entombed aboard the ship that still sits on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The memorial straddles the hull of the ship.

I stood on that memorial and looked at the Arizona. I saw the forward gun turret that still stands above the waterline:

I saw the names of the young men whose lives ended that day--suddenly, unexpectedly -- and all too soon.

I stood there on that memorial, and I smelled the oil that still leaks from the ship. Two quarts a day. You can see it floating on the surface, shimmering in the sunlight. It is said that the oil represents the ship weeping for those who died. And the audio tour guide explained that nothing has been done to clean up the oil because it would be a violation of this sacred tomb. 

I stood there on that memorial, and I thought about all those sailors who were deep inside the ship when it began to sink. The power went out, so they were trapped in utter darkness. Unable to find their way out. Unable to escape.

I stood there on that memorial, and I cried. 

The park rangers announced that it was time for my group to leave the memorial (you get to stay around 15 minutes). I took the boat back over to the visitor center. And then I had another deeply moving experience. I met a man who actually survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Herb Weatherwax is 96 years old, and still active. I thanked him for his service. I told him it was an honor to shake his hand. And after what I had just seen, I really, truly meant it.

Later that day I read these words from a poem that Eleanor Roosevelt 

carried around with her throughout the war: 
Lest I keep my complacent way,
I must remember somewhere out there a person died for me today. 
As long as there must be war,
I ask and I must answer, "Was I worth dying for?"
Of course, for us who believe in Jesus, every person is "worth dying for." Every human being created by God is of infinite value.

But you get the point of what Mrs. Roosevelt was saying. Your freedom is a gift that was purchased at great cost. So what are you doing with it? Are you making the most of every moment? Are you investing in things that matter? Or did all those soldiers and sailors and airmen die so that you can sit around and watch TV?

A precious gift has been given to me. I could never earn it or pay it back. But, with God's help, I'm not going to waste it.

NOW: Like I said, this is the last Hawai'i post. So, just for fun -- no spiritual lesson here -- these last few pics:

See the resemblance?

Jumping off the top deck of a boat into Kealakekua Bay

Thanking Lorie for making this amazing trip possible!

Please keep checking back here every day in September for more thoughts from One Month to Live!

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