Monday, October 10, 2011

Hawaii~ An amazing adventure of LIFE, LOVE and Self Discovery

As we return to reality after an amazing trip to Hawaii, I have so many emotions. To say my life has been touched would be an understatement. This was not just a tropical get away, it was a heart opening life adventure.

A few weeks ago we were standing in Arlington National Cemetery and I became mesmerizer with the story of Lt Col Anne Weatherbee Tinges from World War II, it is surreal to be at Pearl Harbor just a few weeks later. We all know the story of Pearl Harbor, We have seen the movies, it is a part of our history, but I was NOT prepared for Pearl Harbor at all. It is a very emotional place, a very thought provoking experience and it touched me very deeply. They say that you can feel "for" someone but unless you have experienced what they have you can never truly know what they have/are going through. Standing there and seeing "Battleship Row" where the ships were moored, looking out and seeing the USS Missouri at her dock and the USS Arizona Memorial right in front of her... it was very touching. I am not going to go into a history lesson but if you don't know the story of the USS Arizona PLEASE read about it. When we stepped onto the memorial it was very quiet, everyone was in their own little world of "absorbing" the enormity of the history that we were now a part of. Staring at the little bit of the ship that is still above water, seeing a small leaf growing through it, knowing that the ship is beneath you, the forever resting place of so many men, seeing the oil still bleeding out of the ship 70 years later... seeing the wall ... It very quickly stopped being a story you have heard or a movie you have seen and became the reality of what took place. Looking at the memorial wall and seeing all 1,177 names listed on it knowing that those men are forever entombed with their ship, they never even knew what happened... It was heart-wrenching.

Some things that I learned while we were there that you don't hear about in History books amazed me too...

The USS Oklahoma lost 429 men in the attacks,the memorial was created to represent the returning of a ship back to port, (from the memorial web page) The memorial’s black granite walls suggest the once formidable hull of the Oklahoma while the white marble standards represent its lost Marines and Sailors. Eachperfectly aligned marble standard symbolizes an individual in pristine white dress uniform, inspired from the naval tradition of ‘manning the rails.’ In full dress whites the ship’s crew stand at attention along the rails or in the rigging of the ship to display respect and honor. The marble standards of this memorial stand perfectly straight, ‘manning the rails’ of the Oklahoma, forever.

But what touched me most was a little known secret that made me proud that they made the acknowledgement ... the USS Utah lost 54 men and 1 infant... It was very touching that they acknowledged that. Baby Nancy passed away when she was 3 days old, her father was a Chief Yeoman on board the Utah and had her urn in his locker to scatter her ashes on their next sea voyage... Her father survived the attack but her Urn remains in his locker, entombed within the ship.

We spent 5 hours at Pearl Harbor, to say that it was very touching is an understatement. On our journey we also visited "The Punch Bowl" , NationalCemetery of the Pacific. Much like Arlington National Cemetery this is rows and rows of stories, of heroes, of emotions and history. What got me the most was The Gardens, where they have wall after wall of names inscribed, 28.788 names to be exact, the dedication reads "In the gardens are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and whose earthly resting place is only known by God" ... walking past these names, being able to touch the inscriptions, taking a few moments to sit in the small chapel you can not help but realize the sacrifices that our Service Men and Women make to ensure that we... all of us... can obtain our Freedom. These moments were spent thinking of My grandfather, Felix Cotelli, whom I never met and my Mother has no memory of... A man that served in World War II but never got the chance to know his family. How would our lives be different, I wonder... My grandfather, the one that I knew, the Father that my mother knew and loved, my grandmothers 2nd husband was VERY influential on my life, how would that have changed who I am today? Looking at the names, realizing that My Dad served during the Vietnam War and George's dad was in Vietnam... the thoughts of what could have been... and how incredibly proud I am of them! I called my dad and said Thank you...

Hawaii is beautiful, the culture is amazing, the history is preserved, O'ahu is someplace that everyone needs to go at least once. The Pali Lookout, the North Shore, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Shave Ice, Great Food and awesome Hospitality. I am back home now... humbled and changed, refreshed and yearning for more! Of course the next visit will not have the same affect as the first time, the emotions, the feelings, the moments of self reflection can not be duplicated.

My quote today is from the "Fire Pit Storyteller" at the hotel, it is so true!

"You take a piece of every person you meet with you on your journey"

It is so very true, whether they were in your life for a moment or several years people leave a little bit of them with you forever, some people make a bigger impression while others just slip away into the back of your memory but you will undoubtedly remember a person that said something thought provoking, or a story that told itself in the way of a memorial as well as the crazy girls you saw in the lobby of the hotel everyday and will forever chuckle about when you think of them... SO when you are out and about in the world try and make sure that the "piece of you" that people are taking with them is a good piece!

*I will post all about Disney's Aulani Resort later, I wanted this to be about the emotions and the moments, the history and reflection of what Hawaii meant to me.

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