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Ships sail into NYC for Fleet Week

Sailors stand on the deck of the USS

Sailors stand on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima as it passes by the Statue of Liberty to kick off Fleet Week. (May 25, 2011) Credit: AP

Henry Bottjer, a military buff, took the day off from work Wednesday to take in the spectacle that is the "Parade of Ships" in town for Fleet Week.

"I came down to pay my respects to the sailors, and I am amazed at the size of these ships," said Bottjer, 48, of Manhattan. "It's incredible."

The 24th annual Fleet Week kicked off Wednesday at Battery Park City in New York Harbor, where hundreds of spectators lined up along the esplanade for front-row seats at the parade of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships -- all escorted by helicopter and jet fighter squadrons and FDNY fireboats.

More than 3,000 sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in Manhattan to enjoy the city.

"Fleet Week is a chance for New Yorkers to see what the Navy is all about and for us to appreciate New York, which is a city rich in naval tradition," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Forte, 34, who works at the Naval Operations Support Service Center, which trains and mobilizes reservists for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each ship stopped at Ground Zero, with its crew saluting and standing at attention. One of the ships was the USS New York, the amphibious transport dock with 7.5 tons of steel from the Twin Towers.

FDNY Lt. Chris Del Giorno, 46, of New Hyde Park, who works at Ladder Company 11 in the Lower East Side, stood at the esplanade, videotaping the fleet.

"It makes me proud to watch the ships come in and see these guys who are fighting for our country," Del Giorno said.

Firefighter Frank Bifone, 36, of Wantagh, who works at Engine Company 293 in Brooklyn, pointed out that some of his fellow firefighters are reservists or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There's a camaraderie between us," he said.

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