I attended Memorial Day services at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. The honor shown our WWI heroes and all those who serve was exemplary.
I was especially touched by a speech on the subject of “cultural amnesia”…and was heartbroken to see the stately Natatorium still suffering from this. But I couldn’t help but think how this also applied to Blaisdell Center. There, this “cultural amnesia” is so complete, knowledge of its War Memorial status has been utterly lost. Several generations of people, including myself, grew up attending events there without ever knowing that it honors our fallen.
When I realized NBC was a forgotten War Memorial, one of my original goals was to ensure that the story of its dedication and neglect as a Memorial would never again be forgotten.
I recently learned of the City’s idea to replace NBC. No longer faced with just losing the people that witnessed the memorial dedication in 1964, we may now lose the buildings that witnessed it as well. There’s only one known photo from that event… of Blaisdell Arena. The original buildings at NBC, including that arena, are the only tangible, physical objects left that connect today to then….if they are gone, what is left to remember?
I am struck by the similarities between the Natatorium and the NBC–both neglected War Memorials, both threatened. I believe how we treat our Memorials reflects directly on how we regard those they are meant to honor. How could Hawaii, a place that has known war up close and personal, have allowed this to happen?
On Memorial Day, save for the obligatory flags at half staff, there was no indication that Blaisdell Center is a War Memorial. It is our hope that this will be the last Memorial Day this monument to our fallen stands unrecognized.