This is an e-mail from a young ensign aboard the USS Winston
Churchill to his parents, shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
The Churchill is an Arleigh Burke class AEGIS guided missile destroyer,
commissioned March 10, 2001, and is the only active US Navy warship named
after a foreign national.
We are still at sea. The remainder of our port visits have
all been cancelled. We have spent every day since the attacks going
back and forth within imaginary boxes drawn in the ocean, standing
high-security watches, and trying to make the best of it. We have seen
the articles and the photographs, and they are sickening. Being
isolated, I don't think we appreciate the full scope of what is
happening back home, but we are definitely feeling the effects.
About two hours ago, we were hailed by a German Navy destroyer,
Lutjens, requesting permission to pass close by our port side.
Strange, since we're in the middle of an empty ocean, but the
captain acquiesced and we prepared to render them honors from
As they were making their approach, our conning officer used
binoculars and announced that Lutjens was flying not the German,
but the American flag. As she came alongside us, we saw the American
flag flying half-mast and her entire crew topside standing at silent,
rigid attention in their dress uniforms.
They had made a sign that was displayed on her side that read
"We Stand By You." There was not a dry eye on the bridge as
they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and saluted. It was
the most powerful thing I have seen in my life.
The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew, and
it has truly been the highest point in the days since the attacks.
It's amazing to think that only half-century ago things were quite
different. After Lutjens pulled away, the Officer of the Deck, who
had been planning to get out later this year, turned to me and said,
"I'm staying Navy."
I'll write you when I know more about when I'll be home, but this is
it for now.
Love you guys."
Thanks for this to AWONer Sandy Wical, whose Mom forwarded this letter
in an E-Mail from one of her friends, shortly after the 9/11 attacks;
and to AWONer Kenneth Null, who forwarded the photo.