by Jenny McDonald, J2 Engineering & Environmental Design
On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese infamously attacked the United States with a raid on Pearl Harbor. On that day 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians lost their lives. Of those, 1,177 were aboard the USS Arizona. In 1951, the first memorial for the Arizona contained a 'Relic' of the original Boat House to the ship. In 1961, the Relic was relocated to a Naval yard allowing for the construction of the current USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, where it sat until several members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Tribe got together to find a way to bring a piece of history to their community after their experience in Hawaii where they received a US flag that had been flown at that memorial.
Many of the tribe leaders were veterans who discovered that in 1995 the federal government granted the US Navy the ability to remove pieces from the Pearl Harbor site, in what is called "The Relic Program," and provide those pieces to be used for memorial and educational services. So, they wrote to the Navy and were granted two pieces; a part of the USS Arizona's original boat house and the flag that stood at the masthead of the Arizona that December day in 1941, prompting the development of the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River.
The project was intricate and required great attention to detail, as the gravity of this development was felt by all involved. The thought-provoking planning process gave the community a project that allows this actual piece of the USS Arizona to take its honored place as a reminder of the historical events surrounding
Their memorial is the same length as the actual USS Arizona, with over 1,500 commemorative columns, each representing a life aboard the ship that day.
The columns serve as a visual aid of the
USS Arizona's outline while telling the profound story of the men aboard. 1,177 of the columns feature LED lights, representing those who died onboard, with the unlit columns representing the 1 in 5 shipmates who survived. Created from galvanized steel, the commemorative columns represent a unique life, showcased in their slightly different finished appearances due to the mottled galvanized coating. They will naturally patina over time to a duller, darker, and softer gray which will eloquently contrast with the frosted white lights held within them.
When viewed in mass, visitors quickly understand the magnitude of the events on that fateful day. Each column subtly glows with light after sundown, transforming the memorial and invoking the thought that the brightness of each individual will continue to shine, and their sacrifice will stand the test of time.