With masks on, flowers in hand, and heads bowed, many gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl this Memorial Day to pause and remember our fallen heroes even amidst the uncertainty that many have been enduring. 

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Because of the pandemic, official public events, ceremonies, and large groups are cancelled and restricted. However, families were still welcome to visit and decorate their own fallen members' gravesite.

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The number of flags placed on the graves at the cemetery were less than the usual amount compared to the previous years.

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People show up to pay their respects to their fallen heroes at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Memorial Day, 2020. which was open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Stephanie and Ceslynn show respect to graves at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on Memorial Day 2020. They are a part of the Young Marines and participated in a national remembrance initiative by placing roses on graves to honor fallen heroes.

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North Shore resident, Ann Meha (far right), along with her family pays respect to her fallen parents at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Memorial Day, 2020. Meha mentioned since she lives on the other side of the island, it is not always possible to visit the grave but the pandemic has opened up space in their schedule.

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Brian Bellah has been working as a security official at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific for the past two years. According to him, an unusual amount of people came to visit the cemetery on Memorial Day. Although the stay at home order is until the end of June, Bellah feels happy to see people coming out with certain safety measures.

While Memorial Day would normally signal the start of summer break for many, this year’s twists and turns have thrown a wrench into the works, inevitably posing the following question: How will COVID-19 change the way we honor the significance of the days we reserve each year? 

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Dave Jeremiyaa plays the trumpet at Sandy Beach on Memorial Day, 2020. After he saw the crowd gathering at Sandy’s, he decided to join the celebration during the Memorial Day weekend.

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A moderate numbers of surfers were seen at Sandy Beach on Memorial Day weekend.

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Ohelo watches his son surfing from his spot at Sandy Beach on the Memorial Day weekend.

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Ryan Hongran flies his kite by Sandy Beach while enjoying family time during the Memorial Day weekend.

 It is an inevitable fact that gatherings of the coming months, and maybe years, will be smaller, the celebrations virtual, and the neighborhoods quieter. However, while COVID-19 has had its devastating effects, the significance of holidays like Memorial Day has been further emphasized. While people cannot stand in solidarity physically, it certainly has not stopped them from doing so spiritually.

This year, the annual Memorial Day Shinnyo Lantern Floating Festival traditionally held at Magic Island and Ala Moana Beach Park was cancelled. Instead, there was an online streaming ceremony on the Honolulu news station KGMB, where participants could send in pictures and messages to their fallen heroes and lost loved ones. While this is an event attended by those on the island of O‘ahu, the online platform allowed for thousands from around the world to join in the celebration.

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Each Young Marine group was given about 250 roses to put on the graves, with four to five groups visiting the cemetery.

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Colin Charette is a part of the Young Marines and is participating in a national remembrance initiative on the Memorial Day, placing roses on graves to honor fallen heroes.

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On Memorial Day, people visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to pay their respects and mourn for the military personnel who died serving in the United States Armed Forces.

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The flowers placed on Memorial Day. More than an expected number of people showed up at the cemetery with the peak hour between 10 am to 12 pm.

The disruption brought about by COVID-19 has given rise to a certain camaraderie and like-mindedness that could not have been achieved without the force of a global pause. The removal of the hustle and bustle of pre-COVID-19 days has been an advantageous byproduct by simply allowing us to enjoy the new reality of intimate settings. 

The pandemic also altered a special holiday for Muslims called Eid al-Fitr (Eid), recently celebrated on May 23. After thirty days of fasting for the holy month of Ramadan, those of the Muslim community celebrate the festival starting with a congregational prayer at the mosque. However, the pandemic has given a new face to Eid celebrations this year. 

Due to the lockdown, congregational prayers were held within people’s homes. What would traditionally be a day for members of the Muslim community to embrace each other and share in festivities was instead a clever adaptation with drive-through pick-ups of “goody-bags” for the keiki.

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For the last couple of years Eid in Honolulu was celebrated at Ala Moana Beach Park. These photos are taken on June 25, 2017. Due to COVID-19 concerns all sorts of social activities have been cancelled. 

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Muslims pray during an Eid-al-Fitr home congregational prayer in Honolulu, HI on May 23, 2020. Religious institutions are under lockdown to worshippers and visitors as a measure to regulate the spread of COVID-19. On Thursday, the city has allowed in-person spiritual services to reopen on O’ahu from March 23, 2020

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Traditional food is one of the signature items Muslims enjoy during Eid.

Eid is like Christmas to Muslims. According to Hakim Ouansaf, president of the Muslim Association of Hawai‘i, Eid al-Fitr is something that the whole Muslim community looks forward to. Usually, Eid in Hawaiʻi is celebrated through a public gathering in community parks where they share their joy with Muslims, non-muslims and neighbors.

The mosque located in Mānoa is set to open soon. Prior to the pandemic, people could enter at any time, but it is now only open during prayer time with certain restrictions: no hugging or embracing, maintain social distancing measures, wear face masks and only exit your car five minutes before prayer time. 

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Volunteers of Muslim Association of Hawaii distributes food during the last days of Ramadan. 

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Home members enjoys a social time in a a residential home in Honolulu on Eid day, March 23, 2020. 

The privileges once enjoyed such as birthday celebrations, graduations and holidays are certainly sorely missed; the idea of normalcy has been drastically changed and will likely continue to be. However, the new creative adaptations have proved communities within O‘ahu to be kind and resilient even when faced with uncertainty.

Photos Editor

Shafkat Anowar is currently a junior concurrently majoring in Communications and Business (Management Information Systems). He is passionate about photojournalism. One day, he dreams to join the White House Presidential Press Pool.

Editor-in-Chief

Esther Kim is the Editor in Chief of Ka Leo. While she is a Bachelor's of Social Work student, she has a passion for writing and wants to use journalism in conjunction with social work to progress conversations surrounding social justice and equity.