POSTED: 12:37 p.m. HST, Sep 11, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 06:38 a.m. HST, Sep 12, 2011
Eighty-three people in Waikiki joined the world-wide remembrance of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks today by paddling out to the ocean in front of the Hale Koa Hotel, forming a human lei and dropping rose and plumeria petals into the water.
Kaleo Pilanca blew a conch shell to remember each of the hijacked planes that crashed 10 years ago today in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
As the paddlers splashed the ocean to honor the men and women who died that day, Pilanca continued to blow the conch shell to remember all of the first responders, family members, survivors and military members who have been wounded in Iraq, Afghanistan and continue to serve.
“As pure watermen and water women, we must unite and come together as one and stand strong together as one,” Pilanca said, surrounded by the paddlers.
The paddle out was the first of several 9/11 events that will be held on all major islands today, including the Remembrance Walk that begins at 4 p.m. at Honolulu Police Department headquarters on Beretania Street.
The Waikiki paddle out was scheduled for 10:03 a.m. to coincide with the time that the last hijacked plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa. But the first paddlers did not hit the water until 10:19 a.m. for the ceremony, which lasted about 11 minutes.
Mark Marble, the president and CEO of AccesSurf, organized the event especially to honor military members.
“It’s a good way to bring the community and our military members together,” Marble said.
Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Childress, 22, was just 12 years old when his eighth-grade social studies teacher wheeled a television into his New Jersey classroom to watch the events of 9/11 unfold.
Since he was 8 years old, Childress wanted to be a Marine. The terrorist attacks just “made me want to get to it sooner,” he said today.
After a tour in Afghanistan, Childress is now being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder by the Veterans Affairs on Oahu.
He joined today’s paddle out with other Marines stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, including Staff Sgt. David Spiker, 34, who was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. 10 years ago.
When word spread of the terrorist attacks, “I thought, this is it,” Spiker said. “We’re going to war.”
He’s now recovering from injuries from a 2004 helicopter crash in Iraq that broke his back in three places. After four combat tours in Iraq, Spiker now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is being tested for traumatic brain injury.
“I’m trying to get better,” Spiker said, still dripping from the paddle out. “This definitely helps.”
Brad Lockhart, a retired Navy first class petty officer from Houston, Tex., and his wife, Brenda, watched the ceremony from the shore.
After six Labor Day Hawaii vacations, this year they were able to stay longer for the 9/11 anniversary.
“Why would I not come to see this?” Lockhart asked.