The street in front of pier two was full of cars and spouses doing the kiss-and-go just like we were. They pulled away, and I went aboard; my only concerns for the morning were that all of my guys were onboard before liberty expired, and that all of the pre-underway checks were done. After that, I expected a nice bit of underway to continue working on my quals down in Combat Information Center.
As I wandered through the ship, I heard that a plane had hit one of the towers. I thought, like many other people, that it was a horrid accident. Then we heard about the second plane. I saw the pictures. It felt so unreal, particularly since 98% of the tv we saw underway was strictly movies.
Sometime in there we actually did pull away from the pier and go to Bravo to load the test missiles. Then most of the tech reps we had onboard to test systems got off, and we got underway.
The woman on the quarterdeck watch for Sea and Anchor detail had recently transferred from Washington. When I heard about the Pentagon I offered to relieve her, but she preferred to stay up there...so she had something else to concentrate on.
My guys were doing all right. They were all glued to the tv. I walked the ship instead of worrying about my family. Sure, nothing had happened in San Diego, but no one knew what to expect.
I found one of the young seamen crying in the passageway. I took her up to my berthing area - no one enters the Chief's berthing - and found out that she was from New Jersey, with possibly family and friends in the WTC. I gave her tissue, then told her that _she_ was doing everything she could for them right now...that soon, we'd be going to get whoever did this. Don't let whoever did this win by not doing your job, I said. Then I handed her a towel, sent her into the head (bathroom) to wash her face, and told her to take a few minutes to compose herself before leaving. I saw her at the end of August this year. She's now a Gunners Mate Third Class, manning the 5" gun mount.
Mostly, everyone was doing their job that day.
I remember being so damned proud of my guys. My ET1 was watchbill coordinator that day, and he needed extra topside armed rovers. He got them...all from our division...and not a one of the volunteers had duty.
When we got underway we did everything we were asked. I won't describe any of it, except to say that it was eerie seeing the radar screen empty of air tracks.
We normally watched movies underway. This time we kept the tv stations as best we could.
A big part of my division was together in the Aft Gyro Room when the President made his speech a few days later. One of the younger fellows asked if it meant we were going to war. Everyone looked at him, then someone - rather gently, for this group - told him that we had been since the first plane hit the tower.
Now, since commissioning, I had privately thought that the ship's motto was...weak. Now I understood it. In pursuit of peace. How I wanted it back....
We didn't know when we were pulling back into home port, or how long we'd stay. We eventually deployed in November - two months early.
On the radio a few days ago, the talk radio host (and I can't remember who) said that though we will always remember where we were that morning, history will remember where we stood after, when it was time to deal with those who perpetrated these atrocities.
I stand...no, I serve, in pursuit of peace, and, to paraphrase President Bush, in pursuit of those who threaten it.
Afghanistan harbored those bastards. Iraq's never stopped being a problem and ought to have been completely dealt with in 1991 rather than blockaded. Other places will come, because we don't live alone in this world. I find it incredibly ironic that some people expect us to so something about the AIDS crisis in Africa but quail at the thought of us doing something about someone like Hussein and his spawn.
I want the world to be a safer place for my kid.