I part company with Dave and Otto and swim on the surface back under the memorial to a place where the twisted steel is only a few feet underwater. This is my favorite place to take a break during working dives on the Arizona. Standing on the tips of my fins in chest-deep water and leaning against the jagged remains of a bulkhead that used to be part of the ship’s galley, I can hear voices in the memorial through the slap of the waves. There are times when I feel that the voices from below may be louder than the ones from above. I can imagine 1,177 young men joking, flexing their muscles, feeling immortal at 8:00 A.M. on a sunny Hawaiian morning. Ten minutes later they would be consumed in an inferno, transformed instantly into the stuff of history.
The latest visitors have trailed in from the tour boat and are orienting themselves to the spectacle of rusted metal that stretches below them. From my vantage point in the shadow of the white, arching memorial, I can observe them as they stroll along a promenade over my head, but I myself am visible from only a few points of the walkway. A child looking through the railing at knee height spies me and tries to convince his mother that a man’s head is sticking out of the tangle of wreckage in the water beneath them. She knows better and, never glancing in my direction, explains me away as she has other figments of her son’s overactive imagination.
Yellow and purple leis have been tossed onto the ship by a group of Japanese. The flowers float by me, carried in the current, their brilliant colors only slightly subdued by the effects of the oily water.