Updated: Saturday, 01 Dec 2012, 7:45 PM EST
Published : Friday, 30 Nov 2012, 2:31 PM EST
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The Navy inactivated the USS Enterprise during a ceremony in Norfolk on Saturday after 51 years of service.
The world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier returned from its last deployment on Nov. 4. A special ceremony was held at Naval Station Norfolk at 1 p.m.
About 12,000 dignitaries, former crew members and guests will be in attendance. WAVY’s Art Kohn attended the event and spoke with Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert.
Many of those who attended the ceremony sailed aboard USS Enterprise on one or more of her 25 deployments since being commissioned. Some notable deployments involve the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars. She was also one of the first warships on station following the 9/11 attacks.
Friday, survivors of a fire that broke out on the flight deck of the Enterprise in 1969 gathered on that same deck to honor those 27 crew members killed.
"They knew they had to save the ship and their shipmates and they wouldn't be deterred by raging fire, exploding bombs or trepidation," Commanding Officer Capt. William Hamilton Jr. said.
"That's the reason this bunch here, we call ourselves 'Flight Deck Owners,' cause we saved the ship here," Don Stoneman said.
Many of those killed 43 years ago were between 19 and 20 years old. Their youth quickly turned to ashes.
"You're no longer the teenager or adolescent that you were, maybe that morning before it started," Tom Jorgensen said.
On that day, sailors learned the ship is just steel. They are the Enterprise.
"We all own it. But the legend that we will close the book on tomorrow was paid for with the lives of our fallen shipmates, the tears of their loved ones, the blood of our wounded and the courage and tenacity of everyone aboard that day," one survivor said.
Stay with WAVY.com for complete coverage of the USS Enterprise’s inactivation.
Opinions that are derogatory, attack other users or are offensive in nature may be removed. WAVY is not responsible for the content posted in this comment section. We reserve the right to remove any offensive or off-topic remark or thread. To mark a comment for review by a moderator, click "Flag as inappropriate."