By CAROL COMEGNO
welcoming ceremony The battleship USS New Jersey is not
only a tourist attraction, but also a ship of hope that can
be the greatest economic spark for a beleaguered city
trying for a comeback.
Gov. Christie Whitman and others conveyed that message
Friday aboard the massive warship during a ceremony
welcoming it to the city where it will be repaired and
become a naval museum and memorial by the end of 2001.
Several hundred invited guests stood on the warped and
rusting main deck - a thrill for many who had never been
aboard the ship. Many stood in awe of the 16-inch guns on
the ship, which was decorated with red, white and blue
"Today is the fulfillment of a promise to our veterans
and the realization of a dream to bring the ship to New
Jersey," Whitman said, one day after the ship arrived at
the Beckett Street Terminal on its trip to Camden.
"She has always been known as a lucky ship. I know her
luck will instill - as it did in the thousands who served
her - a spirit of pride and hope ... in a city that has
battled against the triple threats of poverty, hopelessness
and decay," said Whitman, who rode the ship on its trip
home through the Panama Canal last October.
"What brighter symbol could there be?''
The Rev. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church
and a Camden activist, called it a "ship of hope" that may
bring people to Camden not just to visit, but also to help
rebuild the wounded city.
For Mabel Giordano of Mount Ephraim, standing on deck
for the first time was a moving experience. She built parts
for the battleship during World War II across the Delaware
River at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard at a time
when women were not allowed on board.
"I'm ready to cry. It's invigorating," said 84-year-old
Giordano, who made it up the gangway with the help of a
cane and a young Marine.
Murray Luftglass of Montclair, a New Jersey crewmember
during the Korean War, said being on board in peacetime was
a different feeling.
"She looks pretty much the same, but I'd say these decks
could use some refurbishment," he said as the 63rd Army
Band played patriotic marches.
New Jersey Battleship Commission chairman Joseph
Azzolina did not speak at the event, co-sponsored by the
state and the Home Port Alliance coalition. The Navy
awarded the ship to Home Port Alliance instead of the
commission, which worked for 20 years to bring the ship to
New Jersey, but proposed placing it in Bayonne.
Retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan, president of the
alliance, said his group won the ship against overwhelming
odds because it convinced the Navy the ship could be an "
instrument of progress" for Camden, as well as a visible
Navy presence in the region.
Navy veteran Walt Jagielski, 73, of Lincroft in
Middletown Township, Monmouth County, said it was an honor
to be one of the state militia "sideboys" who piped aboard
guests like Whitman and U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.
"I will make it a point to bring my family down to see a
ship that helped make peace in the world," Jagielski said.