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Crowds return to pay respects at USS Arizona Memorial

By Sarah Zoellick

LAST UPDATED: 4:32 p.m. HST, Oct 18, 2013

Visitors and tour groups flocked back to the USS Arizona Memorial this morning for the first time since the government's partial shutdown closed national parks on Oct. 1.

The re-opening at 7 a.m. came as a relief to tourists who feared that they would not get to see one of Hawaii's most-visited and most-revered attractions.

Elmer and Mary Byrd of Tennessee arrived on Oahu on Tuesday, hoping that the shutdown would end before they left the island.

"If we had made a list from top to bottom of the things that we wanted to see that was number one," Mary Byrd said as she pointed toward the stark white memorial and her voice cracked with emotion. "My husband served in Vietnam and his dad in World War II and his grandfather in World War I, and it was breaking our hearts that we weren't going to be able to be there."

The Byrds toured the USS Missouri Wednesday and came back to the area today to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which was closed during the duration of the 16-day shutdown.

"We were so blessed to be able to come back today, so thankful," Mary Byrd said. 

The shutdown ended Thursday and some parks, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, re-opened immediately, but officials needed a day to prepare for the re-opening of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

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