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Category: Celebrations

July 4th, 1976

July 4th, 1976 – July 4th, 2016

It’s hard to believe it has been 40 years.

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In 1976 the United States celebrated its Bicentennial Celebration. It’s 200th anniversary of being an independent country. The Vietnam War ended just a year before. Despite the civil unrest that war caused, it seemed patriotism was at a high in 1976. There were so many celebrations and observation for months leading up to the 4th.

In school we re-examined this key time in our history and studied the Declaration of Independence in-depth. All the fire hydrants in town were painted with patriotic colors and some to look like patriot soldiers. There were ‘76’ flags with 13 stars everywhere. For a young teen, this was a special and memorable time for me.

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On this day 40 years ago on July 4th 1976, I was fortunate to be right in the middle of Operation Sail, which is a special occasion featuring “tall ship” sailing vessels from around the world. The Operation Sail for the Bicentennial was especially large.

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My best friend at the time, and next door neighbor was Joe Danaher. His father John served with the Coast Guard for more than 20 years – including during WWII – and rose to officer status. He remained active in the reserves for many years. As such he had considerable clout and had Joe invite me to go with them to Governors Island to watch The Parade of Ships for the Bicentennial Celebration.

Governors Island went into service in 1776 during the American Revolution and became an Army post from 1783 to 1966, when it became an active Coast Guard station until 1996. It sits right at the divergence of the East and Hudson Rivers – across from the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. It affords a commanding presence and view of every ship heading up the Hudson.

We caught a Coast Guard ferry, from Pier 6 in Brooklyn for the short ride to Governor’s Island. Once there, Joe’s father let us roam on our own with directions to meet him at Castle Williams later that afternoon. We explored the 170 acre island from end to end. It was a hot, sunny day, but the ocean breeze kept the temps manageable. In the mess hall, they had set up a veritable smorgasbord of food of all type and ice cream – all you can eat – for free.  We stuffed ourselves and went out to do more exploring.

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Castle Williams where we stood to watch Operation Sail in 1976

When Operation Sail started we were right there at Castle William where the road juts out into the river, and we watched the tall ships, such as the USCGC Eagle, the Amerigo Vespucci (from Italy) and the Gorch Fock (from Germany) among a dozen more tall ships and hundreds of smaller sailing vessels.

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Then the massive aircraft carrier USS Forrestal sailed up and stopped right across from us. On board was President Gerald Ford (a WWII Navy vet), reviewing dozens of mighty modern warships sailing up the Hudson.

USCGC Eagle and the USS FORRESTAL Operation Sail

USS FORRESTAL and the USCGC Eagle Operation Sail

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President Gerald Ford

That night, the fireworks commenced from barges anchored in the river. It remains one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I have ever seen – and I have seen many large events. I remember the colors and the sounds. Most of all I remember the power of the explosions from the mortar rockets was so great I could feel the concussion in my chest as well as my ears.

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The day I spent on Governors Island, July 4th, 1976 is one of my most cherished childhood memories.


Epilogue:

  • President Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006.
  • Governors Island has been open to the public since 2003, as a public park space.
  • In 1967 there wa a massive fire on the USS Forrestal, after a missile misfired and hit a fully fueled fighter jet, which then set off a chain of explosions and fire which claimed the lives of 134 sailors and injured 161.
  • On that ship was Senator John McCain. The missile hit plane right next to his. He was lightly wounded in the event. The pilot of the plane that was hit, Cdr. Fred White, was one of the 134 killed that day.
  • The USS Forrestal was decommissioned in 1993, and was completely scrapped as junk by December 2015.

Hope For 2010 And Beyond

I can still remember New Year’s Eve, 1989. I was a proud new Dad and very content. I remember thinking, “Wow, only ten years before we leave this century and begin a new one.”

On New Year’s Eve, 1999, I remember thinking how quickly those 10 years had passed, and that we were entering a new Millennium. I was now the proud father of three, and I had gone back to school and vastly improved my career track. I was filled with hope and possibility. This had been a good decade for me, for us.

Now on this New Year’s Eve of 2009, I find myself once again in disbelief on how quickly 10 years had got behind me. This past decade was not a good one.

The decade started off well. I was in a challenging new job, but there were undercurrents of problems that would come back to haunt me time and again.

Then 9-11 happened. It fundamentally changed me and not necessarily for the better either. It changed my worldview and political stance. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In 2003 we added 4 new kittens to our already big family of 6 cats. Tragically, we’ve lost 4 of our furry family members over the past 9 years.

By late 2005, my job situation got worse to the point where I made a deal to leave – and did. Finding work was tougher and took longer than I expected, but in early 2006, I landed at Fidelity.

Other than finding work, 2006 SUCKED. There was a lot of death and illness among all our friends and family. It’s all I want to say about it.

The culture at Fidelity was nothing like I expected – in a good way. However, the first job I had was very stressful and pretty much knocked me on my ass every day. I wasn’t too torn up when my contract was not renewed in at the end of 2007.

By spring of 2008, I was back in the fold doing work far different than I had done before. It is the best job I have ever had, making more money than I ever had, with the best crew of people I have ever worked with.

Serious illness continues to plague many family members, not to mention a series of failed and failing relationships.

Outside of family issues, current events suggest that better times for most people are not on the horizon as of yet. But we still hope.

A worldwide event needs to occur where humanity will have to pull together to get through it – and remind us that we really are all connected.

I truly do hope that not only the next year, but the next decade, will have more positive events to reflect on than bad ones.

The Meaning of Christmas

Well, here’s another Christmas Season and some folks are all up in arms about whether or not to allow the term “Merry Christmas” to be displayed in public places and in stores.

As you guys know, I had absolutely no religious upbringing – so follow no faith whatsoever.

With that said, here’s what “Merry Christmas” means to me.

First off, I just like the look and sound of “Merry Christmas”. It’s a happy, festive, warm and inviting phrase.

Christmas brings to mind Norman Rockwell images of Santa Claus, colorful decorations and lights, show specials and movies, Christmas trees and presents, colors, scents and good food, anticipation and happiness. More importantly, all my life, I’ve noticed that during the Christmas Season people are more friendly and neighborly towards one another. They smile at each other more and seem to be in a better mood. It’s a time of reflection. It’s a time of gathering with family and friends. A time of giving and a time of warm, heartfelt greetings. This is what Christmas means to me.

The thing I don’t understand about all the hoopla is – Christmas is and always has been a Christian holiday. I never understood why other faith’s get upset when they are not represented during Christmas. It’s never been demanded they neutralize the terminology of their faith’s holidays…

Oh well, in any case…

Merry Christmas !
~Werner~

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