Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
MSC PAO 01-47
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Bridget Morris
202-685-5055 or 202-494-6524
September 19, 2001
Navy ship lends helping hand in Staten Island
The U.S. Navy's USNS Denebola sat at The Sullivans pier in Staten Island, N.Y., ready to load equipment and supplies and sail to faraway places to defend the United States. Never did the Fast Sealift Ship's crew imagine that America would need the ship's help just across the harbor in gleaming downtown Manhattan.
Capt. Robert Fay was, ironically, at an antiterrorism class Tues., Sept. 11, at Fort Dix, N.J., when his class was interrupted, and Fay learned of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Fay, master of USNS Denebola and a native New Yorker, immediately returned to the ship. By noon, he was back at Denebola and could see the horror just across the harbor.
"I delivered sandwiches to the people building the World Trade Center as a kid and later worked there," Fay said. "It's mind-boggling."
The pier facility where Denebola was berthed became the site of the Staten Island command center, and Fay and his crew saw their opportunity to help. The Staten Island command center was providing lodging and food to about 150 to 250 personnel daily, but they were running out of room, so Denebola's crew volunteered to house some of the overflow. In her current reduced-operating status, Denebola has a small maintenance crew aboard, but she has 35 additional staterooms to hold all the crew that would be on board if the ship was fully activated.
On Friday night, Denebola hosted 65 New York firefighters aboard - some of whom had been on the job for 48 hours before their arrival. The crew doubled up in staterooms and people bunked in the crew lounges.
"The firefighters' faces were blank as they boarded the ship," said Fay. "They described ground zero as a war zone of nothing but body parts."
Fay lost one of his own friends in the blast - a firefighter among those first on the scene.
"We've been standing here watching helplessly across the harbor, so it feels good to help," Fay said.
Aside from the firefighters, Denebola's crew has also provided limited berthing and shower facilities to personnel from the New Jersey Army National Guard. The Guardsmen are providing transportation and security to the Staten Island landfill to where debris is being moved.
Through Tues., Sept. 18, the ship had supported about 100 rescue personnel. USNS Denebola is part of the Navy's Military Sealift Command - the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense. MSC operates about 110 ships daily around the world providing direct support to Navy ships at sea, prepositioning military equipment and supplies near potential hot spots around the globe, sealifting military equipment and supplies in peacetime and in war and performing myriad special missions for the Department of Defense.
For more information about USNS Denebola or MSC, visit the command on the web at http://www.msc.navy.mil/.