ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- A year ago on the morning of Sept.11, millions of Americans and citizens around the world could not believe what they were hearing on their radios or seeing on their televisions.
Stories of passenger airliners being used as weapons of mass destruction, toppling the World Trade Center, smashing into the E ring of the Pentagon, and crashing into an open field in Shanksville, Pa., made many of us wonder what was happening, who was doing it and why.
Sailors stationed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at the time of terrorist acts on the east coast, were either traveling to the ship or onboard as part of the duty section.
No one could believe it was actually happening, and suddenly the ship was in a temporary lockdown as the base was secured to let no one in or out until word was given no more potential threats or bombings would happen that day.
With about a month left until the ship would complete its planned incremental availability (PIA), rumors were flying that the ship would deploy right away and head to various regions of the world to thwart additional terrorist acts.
Other carriers deployed or about to deploy went to the Arabian Gulf and sent a message to members of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that America and our allies would not stand by and let these acts go unanswered.
After a 10-month workup cycle, USS Abraham Lincoln, Carrier Air Wing Fourteen and ships in the battle group now have their chance to respond to the tasking and send a message to all those who wish us harm.
A year has passed and it is definitely safe to say, the events of Sept. 11 have changed each and every one of us. On Sept. 11, 2002, USS Abraham Lincoln in-chopped to Fifth Fleet in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Several ceremonies were held to honor and remember. Shortly after the carrier entered the operating area, 1,200 crewmembers massed on the flight deck to spell out the words "Ready Now."
Those words have deep meaning. When President Bush addressed the Joint Session in Congress in September of last year, he looked to his Joint Chiefs of Staff and he said, "I have message for the United States military. Be ready." Sailors aboard USS Abraham Lincoln want the world to know, especially those meaning to do the world harm, we are "ready now."
Later in the day, a solemn ceremony in the ship's hangar bay, attended by Sailors from the ship and air wing, included the folding of two flags, one from the site of the World Trade Center and one from the ship which will be sent to the Pentagon.
The two flags were flown over Abraham Lincoln earlier in the day. At the conclusion of the folding, they were presented by CMDMC John O'Banion, the ship's command master chief, CMDMC Evelyn Banks, the air wing command master chief, to Rear Adm. John Kelly, Abraham Lincoln Battle Group Commander. Capt. Doug Dupouy, Abraham Lincoln's Commanding Officer, gave introductory remarks.
"As Abe Lincoln would have said - 'it is altogether fitting and proper' that we commemorate this first anniversary of September 11, 2001. It reminds us of our purpose. It re-enforces our resolve. Continually fueled by the horrific acts of September 11, we're a nation determined to win this war against terrorism. And never doubt, we will win."
He continued. "Early this morning (September 11), we reported to Commander, Fifth Fleet for duty. It is an honor that we on USS Abraham Lincoln, a ship named in honor of one of our greatest presidents who's legacy to the world was freedom, it is an honor that we enter this war on terrorism on the first anniversary of September 11, 2001. It is a privilege that on this day we can now respond and honor our lost shipmates, countrymen and friends."
CAPT Dupouy concluded his remarks with a brief note from New York Port Authority Police Officer Tom Kennedy included with a flag flown above Ground Zero at the World Trade Center.
"The flag which we sent to you was flown above ... the place where we lost 37 of our fellow officers. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department officers were the first to respond up into the towers on 9/11."
"Now, we stand for America," Kelly said as he addressed the officers and crew during the remembrance ceremony. "Look around you - shoulder to shoulder with you stand your fellow citizens, each a volunteer, each heart good and true, each brave enough to put themselves at enormous risk to protect our families, our nation, and our way of life. Where else better could you stand?
"We are enough-more than enough, to serve the cause of freedom, to sustain the commitment to our fellow citizens at home, and to remain the beacon of hope that America is and shall always be to the world."
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