Next Tuesday afternoon, community members are set to come together for a commemorative event recognizing the 80th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, as well as what has come to be a symbol of both World War II history and resilience in the present day in the Tri-Valley.
Co-sponsors Save Mount Diablo and the local chapter of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors are set to host the 58th annual "Eye of Diablo" beacon lighting on Dec. 7, with the beacon being lit by survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.
"The beacon lighting is a tribute to those individuals that lost their lives at Pearl Harbor," said Earl "Chuck" Kohler, one of the few remaining survivors in Contra Costa County.
The beacon on Mount Diablo was first installed nearly a century ago, aimed at helping with aerial navigation. It's the only one of its kind known to still be in operation, although four others are still standing along the West Coast.
"The beacon was originally lit by Charles Lindbergh in 1928 to assist in the early days of commercial aviation," said Ted Clement, executive director of Save Mount Diablo. "The beacon shone from the summit of Mount Diablo each night until Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor."
The Mount Diablo beacon was extinguished following the Pearl Harbor attack as part of a large-scale blackout effort along the West Coast, spurred by concerns about potential attacks in the continental United States.
The beacon wasn't re-lit until Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in 1964, in a commemorative ceremony that has continued annually on Dec. 7 since then. The annual tradition was the suggestion of Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who was commander in chief of Pacific forces during World War II, and did the honors at the first lighting ceremony.
This year's event also marks the 50th anniversary of Save Mount Diablo, which headed a campaign to restore the beacon to peak condition in 2013, and has been a longtime sponsor of the beacon lighting.
"The Mount Diablo Beacon is a sign of hope for our communities," Clement said.
Although this year marks the return of in-person events for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Mount Diablo beacon was put to use uplifting the surrounding communities in weekly lightings for a year during the pre-vaccination days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We lit the Mount Diablo beacon weekly during the April 12, 2020 to April 12, 2021 period to thank our heroes, to honor those who have passed and are suffering, to bring our communities together, and to remind people to look up to the light and the healing power of nature," Clement said. "While Save Mount Diablo concluded its weekly beacon lightings in response to the pandemic, the organization will continue its regular care and maintenance of the historic 'Eye of Diablo' as it has done for years."
This year's beacon lighting ceremony is set to be outdoors, weather permitting, on Tuesday (Dec. 7) at 3:45 p.m. at CSU East Bay's Concord campus at 4700 Ygnacio Valley Road. According to CSU policy, all visitors to its campuses must be vaccinated or have a valid exemption.
The event will also feature viewings of the campus' new USS Arizona exhibit, from 3-3:45 p.m., and for 45 minutes following the conclusion of the ceremony.
More information on the commemorative event, as well as the history of the beacon and its restoration process, is available here.