Seventy-five years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the world once again turned its eyes to events happening in the Pacific. Thousands gathered on Dec. 7, 2016, at the site of the infamous attack for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the tragic events that propelled the United States into World War II and drastically altered the lives of millions.
The crowd of about 9,000 in attendance for the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day included more than 100 survivors for what was expected to be the last major gathering of Pearl Harbor veterans. Many survivors are in their 90s and a few are older than 100 years old. The proceedings began with the Remembrance Day Commemoration at 7:45 a.m. (and a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. — the time the attack began in 1941) and concluded in the evening with the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade and Public Ceremony.
Claremont McKenna College alumna and former Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s water polo player Jane Chang Mi ’01 had the honor of being in attendance for the anniversary, and played a unique role in one of the major events of the day. As an experienced blue card certified scuba diver, artist and scientist, Jane was asked to dive and film the Double Interment Ceremony, which took place at the USS Arizona Memorial.
In a ceremony that is unique to the U.S. Navy, specifically the USS Arizona, a group of eight Navy and National Park Service divers (including Jane) returned urns that contained the cremated remains of USS Arizona survivors John Anderson (Boatswain’s Mate, Second Class) and Clarendon Hetrick (Seaman, First Class) to the battleship Arizona. Their urns were placed in the well of turret No. 4.
Jane has worked with the National Park Service in Hawaii for more than two years both as a scientist and an artist, and she is the inaugural artist in residence working exclusively at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. She also is a digital arts professor at Pepperdine University.
From the footage she took during the interment, and images from the underwater archive of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (Pearl Harbor), Jane is working on a project called, The Eyes of the Gods. The vision for the video installation according to Jane, “considers the location [Pearl Harbor] through a historic sense of place with technology used to illicit emotional response to what is still there and what is not.
“By participating in the dive and honoring our veterans while also considering the deeper history that the Hawaiians had with Pearl Harbor, I am attempting to honor all of it [the history]. This project is honoring history, honoring our ancestors and tying it [the history] all together,” Jane said. “It’s important to participate in this dive and that we honor everyone’s history and also honor the freedoms which our country were founded on and the beliefs that we uphold.”
As an artist, the subject matter and concept of the work is important for each of Jane’s projects. Once she has the subject matter, in this case Pearl Harbor, she considers the subject by using a variety of mediums.
“I try to honor multiple perspectives, which is really, really important. It’s an honor to dive at Pearl Harbor, because it’s one of many perspectives. It’s a very important one [perspective], and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be able to partake in such a large part of our history.”
Jane earned her degree from CMC in economics and from HMC in engineering, then went to the University of Hawaii for ocean resource engineering, then eventually attended UCLA, where she earned her master of fine arts (MFA) in design | media arts. Throughout Jane’s time in school, scuba diving was among her hobbies. At 15-years old, she started scuba diving, and her development as a diver has been a natural progression over the years. She became a certified scientific diver, progressed to being a master diver and recently reached blue card certification with the National Park Service.
Paired with her diving background, Jane credits the liberal arts education she obtained at CMC for teaching her many of the skills necessary for The Eyes of the Gods project: attention to detail, proficiency in researching a subject and finding things out on her own, and the ability to inform and tell a story.