Situated on the northern point of O’ahu, the radar operators detected a strong signal, but were reassured, it was just returning American bombers. Moments later the first wave of 183 planes swarmed from the sky attacking the pride of the US Navy moored in Destroyer Row.
The “day of infamy” was Sunday December 7th 1941.
A Japanese shell explodes at the bow of the USS Arizona. Today, rusty and submerged just below the waters of Pearl Harbour, it’s a grave for nearly 1000 and a symbol of the only attack on American homeland by an enemy state.
Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, Roger learnt so much about the attack, and found looking down at the wreck extremely moving. When leaders put territorial ambition ahead of humanity, you quickly lead to 50 million lives destroyed.
If you plan to do this As long as you turn up early, you’ll be able to get one of the free tour tickets released on the day. Leaving soon after 6am, Roger got there on the number 42 bus from Waikiki. He recommends paying $7.50 for the audio tour.
Driving to Vancouver, we stopped where four people lost their lives in a massive rock slide.
We are just outside Hope, imagining the events of January 9th 1965. Within seconds of an earthquake, 46 million cubic metres of earth, rock and snow engulfs the Nicolum Valley and Lake Outram, violently pushing soft clay from the lake’s bed up the opposite side which then slides back and buries the four people in their three cars.
This reminds us of the terrible Welsh Aberfan distaster which happened a year later. Then 40,000 cubic meters of debris buried and killed 118 children and 28 adults in their primary school. But that wasn’t caused by an earthquake – it was avoidable. The guilty party, the National Coal Board.
There are two X’s on Elm Street, Dallas. They show where the bullets hit President Kennedy 53 years ago.
What’s less certain is where they were both fired from. The official line is that Lee Harvey Oswald, positioned in the Book Depository at the circled window, was the sole gunman.
Here’s the view from the reverse angle but a floor above. (You can’t take pictures within the excellent and respectful Sixth Floor Museum itself)
The museum discusses the various theories and it’s hard not to be drawn into all the conflicting evidence: inc Kennedy’s head movement, smoke on the Grassy Knoll, the pristine bullet, Oswald’s marriage break-up. We discussed it at length for the rest of the day. One of us feels there were two shooters. One of us doesn’t.
The scientific evidence is today “conclusive” (there was no second gunman) but still the mystery continues.
Paving stones show the path of a bullet. At one end stands a man in a bathtub. At the other an orator of dreams and promised lands falls to the ground.
The Memphis scene of Martin Luther King’s assassination is now the National Civil Rights Museum and we spent six hours there absorbing the compelling, shocking and ultimately inspiring stories of suffering, defiance, sacrifice and campaigning.
But there is a tension within the museum. It tells the story of slavery, constitutional amendments, disinterested Presidents, Jim Crow Laws, freedom riders, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Birmingham, etc etc superbly but then loses the plot by focusing too much on James Earl Ray and the conspiracy theories. In that respect Jacqueline Smith (see picture below) has a point.
But importantly the museum challenges us to reflect on segregation today. The signs above the doors have gone, but not the separating walls. Think of the increasing division in British schools caused by religious/cultural/economic factors, and the neighbourhood ghettoes in American towns and cities.
It was cold and damp in our AirBnB; we went out to the car to get our sleeping-bags to keep us warm in bed.
But this felt right – here in Papasidero – a bleak ancient hill-town 40 minutes from the sea up a dark forest valley.
We purposely wanted a stop that was different. And the unexpected funeral preocession through the steep alleyways set the tone. Everywhere was empty, derelict and grim. As we wandered around we only had two stray dogs for company.
In the poorest region of Italy this is life for many – a far cry from the fashion malls of Milan or the beaches of the Amalfi Coast.
Matera is a place that gets you to question what we want from historic towns; life and rejuvenation or preserved storytelling.
When we were born Matera was the byword for squalor in Italy – a national disgrace a bit like the Gorbals in Glasgow. Families lived in cave dwellings, malaria was common and infant mortality levels (44%) shocked Western Europe. Action followed of course – thousands were forcibly evicted and the slum areas – known as the Sassi – were closed down.
And it’s this recent, emotional history that attracted us. We went to the viewpoint on the other side of the gorge at first light to look across at the cave dwellings and felt transported to biblical times. We walked around the oldest and poorest of the Sassi – Sasso Caveoso – and were still able to enter many of the deserted cave dwellings.
Hilary on the other side of the gorge
Some of the deserted homes
Roger goes inside an abandoned cave dwelling
Roger explores the oldest Sassi
But elsewhere the Sassi are being rejuvenated; restaurants, wine bars and cool hotels are opening in time for the 2019 celebration of the European City of Culture. Of course, we applaud the rebirth of these areas but do we want the physical evidence of the 20th Century story of Matera to be completely erased and for Matera to become just like every other freshly preserved Italian tourist town.
She was pregnant. She died. She was discovered on 24th October 1991.
She is Delia, over 25,000 years old – the most “famous” exhibit at the museum in Ostuni.
There’s a slightly tacky model of what she looked like and how she was buried, but the real lump-in-the-throat moment came from seeing the laid out skeleton of Delia’s unborn baby. Preserved in a glass container, photographed by people like us, this baby never breathed, never cried, never laughed.
We took a pic of Hilary lying down next to Delia. Interesting how tall she was; we always thought our ancestors were fairly short.