“Until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will not know the terror of being forever lost at sea.” -Ovid
As most of the world knows by now, a horrible collision at sea occurred between a merchant freighter and a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS FITZGERALD (DDG-62), a couple days ago off the coast of Japan. Three Sailors, the Commanding Officer and two others were injured and are in the Naval hospital in Yokosuka. The ship was obviously extensively damaged above and below the waterline.
With the ship now safely in port, the Navy has announced that the remains of several of the seven men, previously unaccounted for, have been recovered from the flooded compartments. It is a credit to the training and resolve of the crew that the ship and crew were able to control the flooding and that not more lives were lost. At sea, compartments below the waterline are maintained at modified-Zebra, where the hatches are closed between compartments and between decks, with the scuttles opened for crew movement.
In an emergency, announced over the 1MC system, they would announce “General Quarters” with perhaps only seconds to respond in this case. I remember one emergency response in our berthing compartment when a sensor in Engineering erroneously detected a poisonous gas (freon) leak in the space below ours (the compartment was above the refrigeration system compartment). From a dead sleep, all my shipmates and I evacuated in less than 2 minutes. But in a collision and the resultant flooding might allow for less that half of that time to get out and secure that hatch.
Regardless of the questions as to events leading to this catastrophe, the loss or injury of a single Sailor is a blow to the community of Sailors. I pray God’s comforting embrace for my brothers and sisters who continue to serve every day. For the lost and injured at sea. And for the surviving crew and families of the USS FITZGERALD. Serving with HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT.