The USS Arizona is still weeping.
Great viscous tears of pitch coloured oil, leaking from deep inside her war torn sides with agonizing reluctance. As if she still can’t quite believe what happened. For seventy two years she’s been weeping, with no end in sight, echoing the grief of thousands of families.
Are there any words for that depth of sadness?
The oil, thick, mud coloured globs of fuel, quietly burbles to the surface and then spreads out, thinner and thinner, changing colours, almost like magic, from coffee to beige, and then suddenly it becomes alive with every colour of rainbow iridescence in a mesmerizing liquid kaleidoscope on the surface of the bay. It would be beautiful, if it weren’t for the horror of it all. A rainbow of tears for the memory of 1,177 lives lost on December 7, 1941; the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Our children know the story. We’ve studied WWII, in various ways, for years. They’ve been to Buchenwald, to Paris and Berlin, to the Anne Frank Haus and the British War Museum in London. They’ve seen the names of men carved into the soft sandstone of the Roman ruins of El Jem, in Tunisia who were fighting in North Africa. They’ve wandered the length of Borneo while reading about the Japs sweeping the island from end to end. We’ve visited war memorials in Australia, and Canada, Britain, France, the Czech, Austria and Italy. They’ve read about Pearl Harbor, and they’ve seen the movies, but to stand in a place is different.
To hold hands with the ghosts and listen to them whisper their stories makes it all the more real.
The thing I just can’t get past with war is the absolute waste of life.
I stood above the deck of the USS Arizona and looked down through the rainbow of poison creeping across the glassy surface on a windless morning and watched the fish flit in and out of their coral caves; over and around the anemone that have grown into the hull. I pushed my mind deeper, below the iron decks to the watery tomb holding the remains of brothers, husbands, lovers, daddies, sons. 1,177 of them. Not unlike my boys. Not unlike hundreds of other young men I love. Futures left unwritten. And truthfully, only the very tip of the iceberg of death and destruction in that war, never mind those that have followed. My mama heart wept for their mothers. All of those babies, loved, cuddled, rocked, nursed, chased around the yard, yelled at for boyish antics, worried over, prayed into adulthood. Gone in an instant one morning a few weeks before Christmas.
Ez nudged me on the way out, “Mom, that guy over there, he was in the video in there!!”
Sure enough, a leathery old man in a double pointed hat and a Hawaiian shirt was standing behind a table, smiling at the folks walking by. He was here that morning, as a very young man, and he’s dedicated his older life to volunteering here, honoring his friends, telling the stories, doing his part to be sure that we never forget. He brought a lump to my throat.
Are there words for that depth of love?
It is important to remember.
We must not forget.
Our children must hear the stories and carry them forward as part of our collective consciousness.