First Posted: 11/11/2008 7:04:11 PM | Last Updated: 11/11/2008 7:04:11 PM
President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush officially rededicated the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in a Veterans Day tribute at Pier 86 on Manhattan's West Side.
Thousands of veterans, guests and dignitaries -- including the commanders of the five branches of the Armed Services -- gathered for the ceremony at Hudson River Park on West 46th Street and 12th Avenue.
"I'm honored to be with you today as we rededicate a great monument to freedom, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum," said Bush, according to the City Room account of Tuesday's ceremony. The outgoing commander-in-cheif gave special mention to the 55,000 Americans who served aboard the USS Intrepid, some of whom were in attendance, as he praised all "those who have worn the uniform of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard," City Room noted.
Reopened Nov. 8, the Intrepid, a national historical landmark, is once again greeting visitors at its newly refurbished home at Pier 86 after a two-year absence as the retired aircraft carrier underwent nearly $120 million in renovations.
Bush was presented with the 2008 Intrepid Freedom Award, which recognizes world leaders who embody the ideals of world freedom and democracy. Other U.S. presidents who have received the honor are Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. International leaders among the prior recipients are: former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Bush is only the second sitting President to have visited the Intrepid. "We believe it says a great deal about the importance of Intrepid’s mission to support and honor our heroes -- our troops and their families -- educate the public, and inspire our youth,” said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, prior to the visit. “We owe our troops nothing short of our gratitude and respect for their service and sacrifice for our freedoms.”
The museum complex -- which draws more than 750,000 visitors per year -- comprises several features: the Intrepid, an Essex-class aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943 that served in World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and for NASA. The storied naval vessel now houses a collection of aircraft -- including 30 period airplanes and helicopters -- a theater, a children’s interactive zone, the new Anchor Chain Room, showcases of artifacts, and exhibits that explore the life stories of the veterans who served on the ship’s crew; the Growler, an original Darter class, nuclear-deterrent submarine; and Concorde, a product of Anglo-French cooperation that became the fastest commercial airliner ever built. The retired supersonic jet (SST) showcased on the grounds here last flew in 2003 and is on loan from British Airways. The museum’s interactive exhibits include flight simulators and thrill rides that give you the chance to experience the sensation of a real-life flight.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Intrepid website.
posted by: Elise Rosen, November 11, 2008