Although it hasn't been easy, the famed beacon atop Mount Diablo on Friday evening will once again silently remind all within its reach of the 2,300 members of the American military who were killed during the devastating Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The lighting of the beacon on the 3,849-foot-tall mountain every Dec. 7 has been a tradition since 1964. The event is sponsored by the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Association and, obviously, the group's membership is thinning, but the tradition carries on -- as it should.
In that attack, the Navy and Marine Corps suffered 2,117 deaths (2,008 for the Navy, 109 for the Marines) and 779 wounded, while the Army had 228 killed and 113 seriously wounded.
The attack crippled the fleet, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships as well as destroying 161 American planes and seriously damaging 102. That attack also was the catalyst for Congress passing a declaration of war the next day. Three days after that Germany and Italy formally declared war on the U.S., which signaled the nation's formal entry into World War II.
The solemn lighting event is scheduled for 3:45 Friday at the Mount Diablo State Park summit building, which is at the top of the mountain. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. Admission to the ceremony is free, but those planning to attend should know that a $10-per-car entrance fee is charged by the state park. That seems to us a small price to pay for something so important.
The beacon is actually 84 years old and was placed at the top of Mount Diablo by Standard Oil (now Chevron) in 1928 to help ships and aircraft navigate at night. It served that purpose until the Pearl Harbor attack spurred the military to extinguish the light for fear it would help Japanese warplanes find and attack the Bay Area.
But this year's lighting was touch and go for a while as to whether the creaky old bulb was going to be able to shine. Park managers and conservationists earlier this year expressed fears that the 1928 swiveling navigation light needed a parts overhaul and might not answer its annual call to duty this year. But officials this week assure us that volunteers have done enough repairs and maintenance that the beacon can make its once-a-year evening vigil. And that those same volunteers will help the light swivel manually, if necessary.
We find that to be exceptionally good news and hope that everyone in the community who is able to attend the ceremony will do so. We also hope that those who cannot will choose to pause for a moment when they see that beacon's light and reflect on the freedoms we enjoy and the sacrifices made for us on that day.