Jonathan Fanning


Pearl Harbor

One of our most powerful abilities… is our ability to choose. Choose how we spend our time, respond to situations, what we give focus to, how we let things affect us. After a keynote in Hawaii, I chose to visit Pearl Harbor and the The USS Arizona Memorial.

In Pearl Harbor, 17 ships were sunk on Dec 7, 1941, but 15 were raised from the harbor floor, repaired, and sent back into duty. What a testament to the will of those serving in Hawaii in 1941.

The Arizona was not raised. It sank so quickly that it became the watery grave for almost 1,000 sailors. The night before the attack, it had just been refueled with 1.5 million gallons of fuel. That fuel has been slowly leaking every single day for 76 years - about 7 quarts each day create "black tears" flowing away from the Arizona.

Just days before the attack, a USS Arizona chaplain wrote and mailed a letter to his family, expressing hope that he might see them over Christmas. The chaplain’s family received the letter several days after his December 7th death.

When I had the chance to visit Pearl Harbor, Ray was one of the tour guides on the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Ray was born in Pennsylvania and was only four years old when the attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the Unites States into World War II. His father was drafted and Ray told us that he did not see his father again until almost four years later. He reminded me potently that this was a time before FaceTime, Skype, email, texting. Ray said that almost every house had a map in a prominent place on the wall with thumbtacks denoting the places that their loved ones had been when their most recent letters were received. Families anxiously awaited any news or letters from their loved ones, which often took weeks to make the journey. One letter on display at Pearl Harbor was sent by the chaplain of the Arizona on November 30th. Chaplain Thomas L. Kirkpatrick wrote,

November 30th, 1941

Dear Ones:

Keep on praying and trusting that the Japanese situation won't interfere with what we have planned. It doesn’t look so good right now, and we are on the alert. Meanwhile, I've addressed and mailed quite a number of Christmas cards. It doesn't seem possible that it can be a little less than a month until the churches will be singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and folks will be wishing one another "Merry Christmas." Better not start until you get word that I am actually coming…

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