Sixty-one Penn Manor High School students had the experience of a lifetime when they performed this month on the grounds of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The school’s choral and orchestra groups performed April 3 in a tribute to the men and women who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. military and to honor those who died in the line of duty.
The Penn Manor chorus and orchestra performed a series of patriotic songs, such as “God Bless America,” American folk songs, such as “Shenandoah,” and Hawaiian favorites, including the Hawaiian version of “Over the Rainbow” made famous by the late Iz Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole.
Following the performance, choral director Lauren Forbes and orchestra director Sara Masten presented a wreath to the Pearl Harbor Historic Society. It was placed at the site of the USS Arizona Memorial by student Colin Mathiot and his grandfather, Bill Engle, a Vietnam Veteran.
The students and directors received two flags that were flown on their behalf from the USS Arizona Memorial on Sept. 11, 2014. The same two flags were flown from the USS Bowfin submarine on the morning of their performance. Students dropped flowers from their lei necklaces in the water at the memorial site where “black tears” – oil – still leaks from the sunken ship.
“It was an honor and privilege to share this experience with our students and perform at such a historic site,” said Forbes.
Students also learned about the culture and traditions of Hawaii, visiting museums and touring the islands, beaches and craters, trying such foods as poi and haupia and participating in a luau.
“Stepping foot in Hawaii was like entering a whole new world,” Penn Manor senior Lavinia Hess said. “The unparalleled beauty of the island, along with the warmth of the people, created memories I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
Senior Justin Torres called the trip “a humbling experience.”
“We sang and played our hearts out to honor everything that happened at Pearl Harbor,” said Torres, who plans to join the Marines after graduation. “It made me feel thankful for the country we live in and the people who give their lives to protect it.”
Penn Manor was invited to perform after participating four years ago in a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the 1941 attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor during World War II.
The students and chaperones paid about $2,000 each for the trip with personal funds and money raised during several fund-raisers held over the past two years. A total of 99 people made the trek from April 1 to 7.
Penn Manor has already been invited back to perform in 2019.