Saturday, May 23, 2009

If you've been following my Twitter updates you know that I've had the privilege to attend Fleet Week events and talk to the media with 24 Sailors from the pre-commissioning unit USS New York (LPD 21), including the prospective commanding officer, Commander Curt Jones. Commander Jones is a native of New York, having grown up in Binghampton, and is in my opinion a perfect fit for the commissioning CO of the latest warship to be named after this great city and state.

Yesterday I had the honor of accompanying Commander Jones to the 9/11 Tribute Center located near ground zero. Though I've been tweeting from the myriad locations we have traveled to about the City over the past couple of days, as we entered the center my brain was completely stilled with imagery and audio recalling that fateful day on September 11, 2001; tweeting was the furthest thing from my mind.

The mission of the Tribute WTC Visitor Center is to offer visitors to the World Trade Center site a place where they can connect with people from the September 11th community. Through walking tours, exhibits and programs, the Tribute WTC Visitor Center offers "Person to Person History," linking visitors who want to understand and appreciate these historic events with those who experienced them.

This week Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen participating in New York Fleet Week are taking tours of the 9/11 Tribute Center. Of those, the Sailors from USS New York pre-commissioning crew took their own personalized tours of the center. With seven and a half tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center site in the bow of the ship, for these Sailors the 9/11 Tribute Center visit carried with it an even deeper meaning of duty and sacrifice.

After having spent the past couple of days with them I can tell you that it is humbling to be in the presence of the USS New York commissioning crew. They know that theirs is a special warship, and they are proud to be a part of this exceptional time in the life of the ship. Somehow, by virtue of being assigned to New York City at the time of the commissioning, I, too, am fortunate enough to be a part of this extraordinary experience. On November 7, 2009, from the very pier where USS Iwo Jima now sits, USS New York will be commissioned. I can't help but allow the New York Sailors' enthusiasm to rub off on me. I'm so proud to serve the Navy in New York and I look forward to the fall, when the USS New York Sailors bring their ship to life.

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