Commissioned in 1943, survivor of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and recovery ship for the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 lunar missions before her decommissioning in 1970, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet is now a national and state historic landmark and museum floating in the waters of San Francisco Bay. My daughter Laura is a volunteer docent-in-training on the Hornet and really wanted to show us where she works, which is how Karen, I, and our other daughter Robin got ourselves a private tour today. It was, to understate enormously, terrific.
(BTW, for the record, I didn't take the photo above. Found it online. Turns out I took about a hundred pictures this morning but not one good one of the ship's exterior from the dock.)
Between its decommissioning in 1970 and its debut as a museum in 1998, the Hornet was mothballed, neglected and abused (a recurring theme from my previous post). I'm sure hundreds of volunteers put in zillions of man-hours making the ship presentable, but what most impressed me was how much it looked like the crew had only just left. Visitors can wander much of the Hornet by themselves (or see more of the ship if led by guides like Laura), and it's remarkable how many areas and artifacts are accessible and unguarded. You really do have the run of the place. Today the Hornet was crawling with several troops of Boy Scouts who'll spend tonight bunking three-high in the crew's quarters. I was both touched by the museum staff's apparent faith in humanity and fearful that someday someone will vandalize something or walk off with a neat souvenir and ruin it for everyone. It's authentic and casual and almost too cool to last.
A perfect Bay Area day on the flight deck of the Hornet, with the towers of San Francisco across the water in the distance.
More than once, it occurred to me that if nine-year-old me had had any idea that one day he'd be standing on the very ship he was watching rescue his heroes from the ocean (standing in the exact same spot they stood!), well . . . I never would have believed it. And if you ever find yourself near the city of Alameda, you could hardly spend a better couple hours than touring the Hornet. Thanks, Laura, and thanks to all the people who keep her afloat!