Special Reports

Patriotism, reflection marks Sept. 11 at Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Scores of tourists, a newlywed couple and two sailors re-enlisting in the Navy chose the Sept. 11 anniversary Wednesday to pay homage at a site memorializing victims of an earlier foreign attack on America.

On a day when the nation remembered the victims of terrorism a year ago, about 200 visitors crowded the somber USS Arizona Memorial early in the morning. Many had both tragedies on their minds.

“I thought it would be a great idea, to make it more meaningful, more patriotic, on September 11th,” said Chief Gerard Sekerak, 36, of Brook Park, Ohio, who chose the memorial in Pearl Harbor to be sworn back in as a Navy journalist.

“It’s just a way to pay tribute to all those who died here 60 years ago and to those that died in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania,” Sekerak said.

A Navy officer administered the enlistment oath to Sekerak and Matthew Smith, 27, of Denver, a torpedoman re-enlisting in the Navy Reserve.

“I thought it would be a good thing to do,” Smith said. “It’s more meaningful to me.”

The memorial and nearby museum pay tribute to the 2,390 people killed in the Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Security concerns led to closure of the memorial for six days after the East Coast terrorist attacks last year.

Always a somber experience, Pearl Harbor visits have taken on new poignancy for many visitors over the past year.

“We are here on vacation, but we felt like on September 11th it might be an appropriate time to visit the memorial and pay our respects,” said Candace Ehringer, 32, of Pasadena, Calif. “It doesn’t seem like a day to be frolicking on the beach.”

At the memorial’s visitors center, newlyweds Chris and Tracy Sambrano of Everett, Wash., said they thought about visiting the memorial on this day when they began planning their Hawaii honeymoon. They were married on Monday,

“With all that’s happened, we’ve come to pay our respects,” said Chris Sambrano, 30. His wife, 26, said, “The loss of life that happened at Pearl Harbor was just as bad as September 11th. Being here on vacation, it’s kind of hard to take some time and reflect on September 11th.”