November 04, 1999
What memories are made of:
4-year-old girl gets to see ship
By CAROL COMEGNO
Carol Comegno, Courier-Post Bridget Crisonino of Berkley Heights saw the USS New Jersey up close and personal in Panama in October.
Bridget Crisonino looked up at the USS New Jersey from a different perspective from most others who came from New Jersey to see the battleship make a historic crossing in the Panama Canal.
While even most adults were agog at the size of the behemoth ship, everything on the vessel looked even larger to 4-year-old Bridget, who is only 3 feet tall.
In Balboa, Panama, the day before the canal transit, Bridget walked aboard the aging naval warrior in her black and white polka-dotted dress and stared up at the captain's bridge and superstructure rising from the main deck.
It's bigger than a building. It's so tall, it's touching heaven, she told her parents, Holly and Gerard Crisonino, who were raised in Bayonne and now live in Berkeley Heights, Union County.
Bridget, who turned 5 on Monday, was the youngest member of the more than 200 New Jerseyans who visited Panama to see the ship the largest U.S. battleship class ever built travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea en route to its namesake state to become a museum.
When asked why she came, the precocious and outgoing youngster knew the answer: To see the ship, she said with excitement and a winning smile that is a fixture of her personality.
She attended most events and even got to dance at a special reception at the Panama City home of U.S. Ambassador Simon Ferro.
Her father said he wanted to take the pre-schooler along for an educational experience and to be part of the historic canal crossing of the ship en route to New Jersey to become a museum.
It was very exciting, said her dad, who supports Bayonne as the proposed museum site over Camden. I know in the future she will learn more about the battleship and she can say she was part of its last voyage.
Jersey City school social worker Anthony Strangia of Middletown brought his son, Anthony Jr., 13, who said he felt proud to see the ship and was amazed to see a ship of that size transit the canal.
He has been taught to appreciate our country. We were proud to be Americans in Panama and we're glad we came for this once-in-a-lifetime event, his father said on the flight home from Panama.