There I was ready for the commissioning of USS New York LPD 21, the Navy's newest war ship.
I had a white ticket....next time I have to find out who has the prime color and fix my tickets, lol! I was directed to the building behind the ship where we watched the ceremony on big screen TVs. But it was all good because I was sitting with 9/11 families; Sailors who had been aboard USS New York's previous incarnation BB-34; and former crew members of the USS Intrepid.
I had some great conversations with people around me while we waited for the ceremony to start. There were a few texts with the Ogre as he tried to figure out where I was and how to get to me.
Then the ceremony began and I was reminded that I was in New York, big time! I was watching the different guests being introduced and appreciating the difference in the level of applause. Gov Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg got a polite amount. But Hillary got this buzz of excitement, especially from the two women in front of me and the woman beside me. I smothered a giggle (yeah, I know, I am an asshat). I gave props to all my Sailors...the CNO, the SECNAV and my friend VADM McCoy. Then someone who got universal love from this crowd....General James T. Conway Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps!
Hands down General Conway was the best and most moving speaker. I felt bad for Sec Mabus because he had to follow those remarks.
I enjoyed all aspects of this - setting the watch.....having Dotty England call on the crew to man our ship and bring her to life....the flyover.
Now this was the great part of being where we were, behind the ship, on the second floor. When the crew manned the ship, they were right in front of us outside the expansive glass along the entire wall.
The other plus of our spot was that immediately afterwards we were brought downstairs and allowed straight onto the ship.
It was a perfect day to be topside on the Navy's newest fight ship. There is nothing like walking around a Navy ship and having the crew proudly show her off.
I went everywhere I was allowed. That was the problem with losing the Ogre, I would have been brought to more places. LOL
But you know, the bigger thing for me is who I meet.
I met the CO. Is there anything more fun than shaking someone's hand on what is likely one of the best days of their lives? I congratulated him and thanked him for sharing his day and ship with us. Then I mentioned the Ogre and asked if he ran across him, to throw him off the ship. CAPT Jones laughed and said he would.
I enjoyed hearing the excitement in the voices of the crew members as they told little anecdotes about how New Yorkers were treating them when they were on liberty.
I spoke with family members of the crew and watched fathers give their children tours.
Of course, if I wasn't hanging, waiting for the Ogre to surface I would have missed a few things. Generally, I am not a "people-watcher". I am pretty oblivious most of the time, moving around in my own little bubble. But there hit a point yesterday where I just had to stand still. All that climbing, coupled with no sensible meals.....lol, tea and a donut at 6 am doesn't really last through the whole day of running around New York and USS New York.
So I was standing near the place people were entering the ship. The crowd was thinning. Tours were scheduled to end at 1600 and this was just before. And on comes six FDNY jakes in various working uniforms. There had been a heavy FDNY presence all day, but they were in dress uniforms.
Well, I temporarily overcame my extremely shy nature and went up and introduced myself. I told them that there was some debate out there as to whether or not a warship was the best use of the 7.5 tons of steel recovered from ground zero. I absolutely loved the response! Slightly belligerent - "Of course it's a good use! What else would you do with it?"
There was something about watching those guys standing there, hands on hips, surveying the scene. Something immensely satisfying about their approval. It was a variation on this pic playing out in front of me.
Brady, Rob, Hollywood.....it was my absolute pleasure to have met you yesterday.
To the person who got me the ticket, thank you for a really wonderful day. Someone asked how I came to drive down from Boston for this. I explained that someone in the Navy thought I was someone....and that I really wasn't, but I wasn't going to let on because this stuff was too good to miss!