PHOENIX — The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has built the 5-acre memorial near Scottsdale as a tribute to those who were aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked and sank at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens honors each of the ship’s 1,512 crew members, including the 1,177 who died in the explosion caused by one torpedo and eight bombs hitting the battleship.
One survivor of the attack was Paul Howard Egan. He died in 1992 at age 71 and his ashes were interred on the USS Arizona in 1993.
Fire Control Chief Petty Officer Lauren Fay Bruner died on Sept. 10, a couple months shy of his 99th birthday.
“He’s actually inside the ship now,” his son, John Egan, told The Arizona Republic. “I know he missed his shipmates. … I felt he was at peace, finally.”
John Egan, 69, lives in the Phoenix area and has visited the monument at the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens.
“The memorial is a really neat thing. It’s really peaceful and serene,” he said.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community funded and built the gardens, which opened in February.
The venue honors each of those who were aboard the USS Arizona at the time of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service’s attack with metal monuments of stacked blocks with names and ranks engraved on them, according to the Republic.
The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.
The newspaper said the garden’s perimeter spans the length and width of the ship, with each column representing a person aboard the ship.
There are quotes from survivors on benches along pathways that end with flagpoles that mark each branch of the military.
The site’s design is the exact size of the 608-foot-long (185-meter-long) ship.
Most of the columns light up at night to represent the lives lost during the attack.
According to the Republic, the gaps between the columns are designated for survivors of the attack like Paul Egan.
The site incorporates the community’s existing veterans circle.
In 2007, Salt River community members sought to obtain a flag that was once flown over the sunken battleship.
They wound up getting a piece of the ship’s original boat house.
John Egan said he appreciates the years of effort the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community put into creating the site.
When it’s safe to travel again, he hopes to bring his sons, who are in their early 40s, to see the memorial.
He also has made a $250 donation to become an “illumination partner” to support the cost of lighting the gardens every day.