USS Winston S. Churchill Remembers Victims of September 11th

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) held a ceremony to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Within the ceremony, Winston Churchill performed a flag passing ceremony and Cmdr. Christopher D. Stone gave remarks. As an additional way to honor the victims, the ship’s bell was rung to coincide with when the attacks occurred.

“As we think back on the events of 9/11, our sorrow over the loss of so many good people should be tempered by the example shown by many who died and so many who lived,” said Stone. “We remember once again how ordinary human beings reacted with extraordinary heroism when they were thrown face-to-face with the most fundamental questions of human existence.”

Churchill Sailors from New York City took part in the flag passing ceremony. In this tradition, the flag is passed from one member to another while the poem, “My Name is Old Glory,” is read. The poem and the passing of the flag symbolize the unbroken continuity of men and women who have defended America’s freedom from its beginnings to the present day.

Information Systems Technician 3rd Class James E. McNamee, who read the poem during the ceremony, lived in New York at the time of the attacks. McNamee lost a family friend, Battalion Chief Orio Palmer of the New York City Fire Department. Palmer was one of the many rescuers who rushed into the south tower of the World Trade Center and died when it collapsed.

McNamee said he was inspired to join the Navy from events around 9/11, especially seeing the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 70) operating in New York City’s harbor following the attacks.

“On Churchill, what we do here, it’s my chance to give something back to the heroes of that day,” said McNamee, in reference to the police officers, fire fighters and civilians who sacrificed themselves to rescue others during the terrorist attacks. “They reacted instantly and saved lives. I think about that whenever we train or react to an emergency or crisis on this ship.”

Chief Gas Turbine System Technician (Electrical) Carlos M. Morales, who was a recruiter in New York City during Sept. 11, was also part of the flag-passing ceremony. Morales said he was proud to pass the flag to Sailors who had joined in the years following the attacks.

“Someone has to do this job, and these Sailors stepped up to do it,” said Morales. “Because of Sailors like these, America can know someone is out there to protect them. We stand the watch.”

Throughout the morning, Churchill’s bells rang in at the same moments the attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. Bells rang to symbolize when the planes crashing into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, the fall of the towers and the intentional downing of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

Churchill has its own historical footnote from events surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks.

Shortly before Sept. 11, 2001, Churchill was engaged in exercises outside of the United Kingdom. Churchill remained in the North Atlantic in a defensive posture and while operating there received a gesture by a German ship that is noteworthy to the global unity following the attack.

On Sept. 14, 2001, Churchill was passed by the German destroyer Lutjens, which rendered honors, hoisted the American flag at half-mast and unveiled a banner saying “We Stand By You.”

Churchill returned to Norfolk in late October 2001 and would go on to serve in its first combat deployment in January 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.

Winston S. Churchill is currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Naval Today Staff, September 14, 2012