By Mason Kelley
Washington players gathered as a group. They took selfies. They checked their social media accounts. They soaked up the afternoon sun.
Then they filed into an auditorium at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. When the lights went down and a video started, they sat in somber silence.
As the Huskies tried to process the images from Dec. 7, 1941, they fixed their focus on the screen. There was no fidgeting. Their cell phones were tucked in their pockets.
When the video ended and the lights went up, the Huskies sat quietly. It is one thing to read about the tragic bombings that ushered the United States into World War II. It is an entirely different experience to visit the site in person.
“I think they’re always really appreciative of what went on,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “A lot of times we only hear about it in our school books, but to be able to see it with our own eyes, I think it brings it to life. I just think it’s an important life lesson."
After Washington was provided background, the Huskies boarded a boat that took them out to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was a quiet trip.
“It’s good to see all this history together and understand what actually happened,” quarterback Jeff Lindquist said. “This really shaped the course of history. It really changed who we are as a nation today.”
When they arrived at the memorial, the Huskies spread out. Some dropped flowers into the water, while others watched the slow trickle of oil that continues to bubble up from submerged ship.
“You saw the oil leaking from the ship and you could just feel the energy of those bodies that are still down there, those people,” receiver Kasen Williams said. “It’s very powerful.”
Groups of Huskies listened to tour guides and examined the names of those who were killed on the ship.
“It’s crazy to think, most of the guys who died were our age,” receiver DiAndre Campbell said.
From one side of the memorial Aloha Stadium – the site of Saturday’s game against Hawaii – was visible in the distance. But for an hour Friday afternoon, the Huskies shifted their attention away from football. They focused on the sacrifice of others.
“It’s a powerful place,” Petersen said. “That’s what I always appreciate, their reaction to it. It does have an impact on them. It does mean something, and I think they’re appreciative of what others have done for them to be able to live the life we live and play football.”