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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

Winning our battleship gives

region reason to celebrate

This time, South Jersey drew to an inside straight. The longshot nosed out the odds-on favorite at the wire. All that Thursday's battleship announcement lacked was sportscaster Al Michaels shouting, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

Camden has been awarded the USS New Jersey. It's another boost for the city and region and an example of what organization and determination can deliver.

We can - and no doubt will - talk about the purely practical benefits of berthing the USS New Jersey on the Camden Waterfront. From an economic standpoint, it's a boon to the city and region.

An already-expanding Waterfront receives a megaboost. The ship will partner with the N.J. State Aquarium, the Camden Children's Garden, a ballpark, the E-Centre, a tram and all of the attractions on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River to attract tourists.

Jobs will be created and revenue generated. New investment will be attracted to the area. Tax bases eventually will expand, thereby easing burdens on residents and improving public service.

And let's not forget about the other projects that are going on, such as the Admiral Wilson Gateway improvement. Take a look around, and you will see a region on the move.

But landing the USS New Jersey is so much more than dollars and cents. When the news broke, you could see it on the faces and hear it in the words of South Jerseyans:

-- "Finally, Camden gets something of value," Camden County Freeholder Pat Jones said. "We're so used to losing, I can't believe we've got it."

-- "I always had hopes, but there was so much politics," John Horan of Cherry Hill, a signalman on the battleship during World War II, said.

-- "I am so happy. I am so thrilled. I can't believe that the Navy really saw our side," said Mabel Giordano of Mount Ephraim, a welder who helped build the battleship.

"Finally." "Can't believe it." South Jerseyans were shocked that Camden landed the battleship, even though the facts pointed to a Camden win.

Maybe that's because this region has struggled with political, economic and social problems for an awfully long time. It seems like the challenges just keep coming. And sometimes those challenges can seem overwhelming.

That's why the "Big J" represents so much more than a ship. It's yet another positive step - OK, a really, really big step - in the right direction. It's even more evidence that Camden and South Jersey are moving ahead and proof that this region, when it works together, can be a powerful force.

South Jersey took on the big boys, the politicians, the powers that be, and came out on top. The men, women and even children who poured out their hearts to bring this ship back to its rightful home didn't listen to the doubts.

We should remember how we feel now about the "Big J" and those people who worked to bring the ship home. It might come in handy.

Maybe the next time an ambitious plan is proposed, few people will be quick to dismiss it or take the line that it can't be done because nothing good ever happens for South Jersey. Maybe the next time a call goes out for regional cooperation, we'll all remember the success of the battleship effort. Maybe the next time there's a big prize up for grabs, we'll go after it with gusto.

South Jersey is moving ahead and doesn't have to take a back seat to anybody. There should be no limits to the vision of what South Jersey can become.

South Jersey is a winner. Don't believe it? Well, when it comes to fights over battleships, we're undefeated.

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