U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles this past weekend, bringing welcome aid to our city in its fight against the coronavirus. It was a moving experience to be there on site as the massive ship appeared and to watch it sailing through the channel to its berth (where it appears above).
With COVID-19 cases rapidly rising in California, and substantial impact projected for LA, our governor requested Mercy’s immediate deployment to help ensure that we have the medical facilities and assets needed here.
Mercy’s purpose is to alleviate the burden on LA-area hospitals as COVID-19 cases accelerate. It will handle other critical care cases, allowing our local hospitals to focus their resources on COVID-19 patients.
My partner tracked Mercy’s schedule, and we planned to get to the port early to see the ship arrive. It was a perfect early spring day — mild, clear and sunny — and getting outdoors for a cheering event was a refreshing break from the fraught, quarantined life. The world seemed almost normal, except for the virtually empty Friday morning streets.
That changed when we arrived at our chosen viewing point. Nowhere to park and a crowd that made social distancing impossible. Not surprising. Fortunately we know the area well, and a short drive away, it was mostly quiet. It was easy to preserve my space, though I did have to shoot photos through a chain-link fence.
Here is a photo of U.S. Coast Guard ship “Halibut,” which led Mercy through the channel.
Halibut is a Marine Protector Class patrol boat based in Marina del Rey, California. One of its functions is port security. Because it’s based so close to LA, the Halibut is known in the Coast Guard as “the Hollywood cutter” and is often used to represent the Coast Guard in broadcasts, television shows and movies.
Shortly after the Halibut passed by, Mercy sailed into view — a monumental presence 854 feet long and 106 feet wide.
My partner got the best shot of the ship as it made its way to its berth in an area normally occupied by giant cruise ships. You can get a sense of its magnitude from his photo below.
Usually, we see one or two tugboats pushing or pulling the cruise ships into place. Four tugboats were present to assist the smaller, but less maneuverable Mercy.
As Mercy continued its journey, we headed home — or so we thought — following its path up the channel. Approaching the cruise-ship terminal, traffic was markedly different from what we’d experienced earlier that morning.
We assumed the “No entrance” sign flashing ahead meant no public ingress to Mercy’s docking area, but fortuitously, the turnoff to the cruise ship terminal was open, and we swung in, found immediate parking, and joined the band of people heading across the street to welcome Mercy.
Celebrating a Historic Moment
Mercy’s berth was just a short walk away. As we approached the ship, we found a lively scene with a variety of people gathered, from members of the community like us, some with school-age children in tow, to professional newspeople and photographers.
Law enforcement and military circulated among the gathering. Everyone was courteous and tried to observe a reasonable amount of social distance.
A row of photographers hugged the fence in front of Mercy, tripods set up, intently focused. Others snapped away on their cell phones, waved at the Mercy team members on deck or just stood back to observe the scene and enjoy the bright, fresh morning.
In the midst of the action, a newswoman and her cameraman prepared for filming.
A bicyclist pedaling back and forth waving a large American flag exemplified the mood of quiet celebration I felt as we all converged to witness this moment in history.
At this distressing time, Mercy’s arrival brings solace, cheer, and the hope that comes from additional readiness in the coronavirus fight. That is a mercy indeed.
Thank you to all who made Mercy’s rapid deployment to Los Angeles happen, from Governor Newsom to the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command and everyone who worked to prepare the ship for this mission. Best wishes to the Mercy medical team and staff as they assume their life-saving duties.
Stationed in San Diego when not on active duty, Mercy has 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms and nearly 1,300 medical staff and crew on board.
Local Stories Welcomed
What state or local COVID-19 preparedness/relief actions are happening in your community? Please share your news from around the world as we navigate this difficult time together.
Copyright M. Vincent 2020.
Mercy docking at its berth at the Port of LA and Mercy sailing into the port, copyright Brad Nixon 2020, used with kind permission. Etymology lovers, see his related post here.
All other photos copyright M. Vincent 2020.