Earlier this year, I got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk the hallowed grounds of the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Oahu, Hawaii.
While there, I heard the whispers of the men who perished that horrific day 70 years ago still hanging in the warm January breeze as I walked along the harbor's shorelines, looking at the artifacts and memorials that adorned the area. I felt their presence clinging to the U.S.S. Arizona, which sat quietly submerged in its underwater grave, as I walked over top of the once magnificent battleship, along the floating memorial, learning about the events that forever changed America's history, and witnessing firsthand the "black tears" of oil that still bubble from the ship.
During that visit, which was one of four stops in Hawaii our cruise ship made, my world changed. The story of Pearl Harbor, which I had read about in history books, was now real to me.
This past Wednesday marked the 70th anniversary of the "Day that will live in infamy."
That day, thousands of young men with larger than life dreams, gave the ultimate sacrifice to this country. They did nothing wrong. They didn't deserve the fate that surrounded the harbor.
The events that unfolded on Dec. 7, 1941 began at 3:42 a.m. HST (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time), when a U.S. minesweeper detected a Japanese submarine. Little did they know at that time was that the threat would not come from the water, but from the air.
By 6:10 a.m., the Japanese had taken to the sky with 183 fighter planes and began their journey toward Pearl Harbor.
At 7:10 a.m., the first wave of Japanese bombers were spotted, but believed to be U.S. B-17 Flying Fortress bombers from California.
At 7:33 a.m., warning messages from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, who learned that Japaneses negotiators have broken talks in Washington and war may be imminent, were missed because of atmospheric static in the islands.
At 7:55 a.m., the first Japanese bomb was dropped on the harbor as the nearly 200 fighter planes began their descent.
By 10 a.m., the attack on Pearl Harbor was over and as the smoke rose from the seas and the wounded searched for some glimmer of hope in the destruction, a total of 2,390 men had lost their lives; and 93 ships, including nine Naval battleships — the Arizona, Tennessee, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah — and 343 planes had been destroyed or damaged.
Seventy years later, this event remains a solemn remembrance that this world is filled with hatred rather than peace.
As our military transport boat pulled up to the U.S.S. Arizona memorial in the middle of Pearl Harbor, my heart skipped a beat and I choked back tears for these men and for future generations. This was something I always only ever dreamed about and now I was finally here.
The hardest part, and yet the most amazing part of the memorial came as I walked through the memorial on top of the U.S.S. Arizona, which serves as an eternal resting place for 1,102 men, whose bodies were not recovered after the attacks. At the end of the memorial stands the heart of the memorial, a wall, made of white marble. On that wall, 1,177 names of the brave men of the U.S.S. Arizona who died for their country, are etched forever in stone, never to be forgotten.
I will never forget my visit to this somber place. The men and most ships may be gone from Pearl Harbor, but the memories of that day will always remain.