Filed Under Michigan

Forging Memories in Steel: The Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

Honoring Loss, Resilience, and Trans-Generational Bonds

In Jackson, Michigan, a unique memorial stands as a testament to collective memory. The Michigan U.S.S. Arizona memorial, featuring steel artifacts from two pivotal moments in American history, offers a sacred space where loss is remembered, strength is celebrated, and memories remain for future generations.

Jackson, Michigan, marked the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack by unveiling the Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Sparks Foundation County Park on December 7, 2021. The heart of this memorial is a steel plate from the U.S.S. Arizona, a tangible link to the past. Adjacent to it stands a matching case housing a steel beam from World Trade Center Tower #2. This space also features a memorial to local homicide victims, all crafted by local firm ALRO Steel. These monuments create a sacred space bridging collective memories of loss and resilience across generations.

Three seemingly unrelated memorials at Sparks Foundation Park honor lives lost in different tragedies, uniting individual grief into collective solace. Just as Jay Winter emphasized the significance of memorials as places of mourning, the Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial allows the community to mourn together. This communal remembrance, as Larry Ray notes, forges a connection between the living and the departed, fostering emotional bonds across time. "Such sites create a community of the living and the dead by inviting visitors to join with an imagined community, where the living and the dead are commemorated and experienced, and contemporary people are emotionally bonded to the dead."

Steel binds these memorials together. The rusting steel plate from the U.S.S. Arizona resembles the Tower #2 beam, blurring the lines between tragedies. In Jackson, known as "the crossroads," steel has deep roots. Its strategic location between Chicago and Detroit fueled its industrial rise with numerous steel-related businesses. However, economic downturns and increased violence hit the city hard. Larry Mentink's son's murder in 1989 led to the Victims of Violent Crimes Memorial, offering solace to grieving families.

The World Trade Center's steel beam, received by the city, found a home beside the Jackson Victims of Violent Crimes Memorial in 2017. Along the park's circuitous footpath, the combined site attracts visitors and runners, highlighting the recurring theme of "metal" as a weapon against innocence.

Stan Mazur, an 84-year-old Navy veteran, saw an opportunity to add an artifact from the U.S.S. Arizona, representing another tragic attack on America. The Jackson County Commission officially requested it, and despite delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial achieved completion for the 80th Pearl Harbor anniversary. A ceremony attended by diverse groups, including local veterans and blue-collar workers, honored Stanley Czarnecki, Jackson's sole U.S.S. Arizona casualty.

While this "sacred site of steel" remembers loss, it also embodies strength and resilience. Though the U.S.S. Arizona and the World Trade Center are gone, their steel endures, just as the American people have persevered through World War II, economic changes, and the Global War on Terrorism. Like these artifacts, their memories will persist.

(edited by Jennifer Schaper)

Images

Jackson Sparks Foundation Park Memorials Jackson Sparks Foundation Park Memorials (view looking SE); Jackson 9/11 Memorial in the foreground, with the Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial on the right and the Jackson Victims of Violent Crimes Memorial on the left. Source: Link / Permalink Creator: David W. Van Hoof Date: 2022
Jackson Homicide Memorial Cascade Baptist Church in Background View of Jackson Victims of Homicide Memorial, memorializing “recent” victims of homicide. Majority of victims were killed by firearms or knives fabricated from steel. Source: Link / Permalink Creator: David W. Van Hoof
Date: 2022
Detail of Jackson Victims of Violent Crimes
Detail of one of the victims of homicide. Coach Jim Crowley was shot to death in his driveway during an attempted robbery, after having returned home from picking up his daughter from ice skating with friends. His football team had just won the state championship the previous November and was author’s football coach at the time of his death. Source: Link / Permalink Creator: David W. Van Hoof Date: 2022
Michigan USS Arizona Monument View of the Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial with the 4”x4” section of steel from the U.S.S. Arizona positioned centrally in the display case, surrounded by associated plaques. Source: Link / Permalink Creator: David W. Van Hoof
Date: 2022
Close-up USS Arizona Memorial (1)
Detail of plaque #1 which provides an overview of the attack on Pearl Harbor and provides a general location of where the iron plate was located on the U.S.S. Arizona superstructure. Reflected in the glass is the Jackson Victims of Homicide Memorial and the Jackson Cascade Baptist Church in which the dedication was held on December 7, 2021. Source: Link / Permalink Creator: David W. Van Hoof
Date: 2022
Close-up USS Arizona Memorial (4)
Detail of plaque #4 which lists all servicemembers from Michigan who perished aboard the USS. Arizona on December 7th, 1941. Of note is Fireman 1st Class Stanley Czarnecki, resident of Jackson, Michigan. Source: Link / Permalink Creator: David W. Van Hoof
Date: 2022

Metadata

David W. Van Hoof, “Forging Memories in Steel: The Michigan U.S.S. Arizona Memorial,” Global World War II Monuments, accessed July 24, 2024, https://worldwariimonuments.org/items/show/43.