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CNN Today

New Yorkers Treated to Maritime Parade

Aired July 4, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Across the nation today, Americans are celebrating the 4th of July with parades, picnics, concerts, and of course, fireworks. But nobody does it like New York. A light show over New York Harbor tonight is expected to be so spectacular that Lady Liberty may want to duck.

Before the fiery nightcap, though, New Yorkers are being treated to a grand maritime parade. OpSail 2000 it's called. And CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman pulled the tough duty today on the waterfront -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Lady Liberty is right behind me and she hasn't ducked yet. But you're right. When that fireworks display starts at around 9:15 Eastern Time, she may be ducking.

There have been 224 independence days in U.S. history, but aside from the very first one in 1776 this one may be one of the most memorable. On the waterways of New York City behind me, the New York Harbor, uptown a little bit on the Hudson River, military boats, tall ships and also private crafts have combined to make what authorities say is the largest gathering of maritime traffic of all time.

Right now, we're on the U.S. John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier, and this has been the focal point of much of the celebrating. Two types of celebrations taking place in honor of the nation's 224 birthday and also the first Independence Day of the millennium: Operation Sail 2000 and the International Naval Review.

First, OpSail 2000: going by this ship for the last hour and a half, 150 different tall ships from nations all over the world, 23 nations to be exact. The United States had most of the ships represented, but also represented, Canada, the countries of Colombia, Spain, Indonesia, Japan, Brazil, Belgium, and France -- a magnificent sight for people who have never seen it before.

There have been other OpSails. This is the fifth one. But this is said to be the most extensive Operation Sail of all of them.

And President Clinton, the president of the United States, was aboard the John F. Kennedy, reviewing the ships as they went by. He left about 30 minutes ago.

But before he was on this ship, the president was on the USS Hue City. That's an Aegis-type cruiser. He was on the Hue City to review the military ships that have been brought in from 13 different nations, a total of 23 ships.

By the way, the USS Hue City is the only United States military ship named after a battle in Vietnam. After the president was done with that review, he, his wife, Hillary, his daughter, Chelsea, were brought here to the USS John F. Kennedy, where he encountered a 21-gun salute from the 5,000-plus crew members aboard this huge vessel. If you stood this vessel up from back to front, it would be the equivalent of 100 stories. It's 1,051 1/2 feet long. So it was the president reviewing all the ships from the JFK.

Now, one of the most touching moments of the day, 10 people aboard the ship were sworn in as new U.S. citizens. One of them was a woman who serves on the ship as a seaman. Her names is Rosa Norales- Nunez. And one thing we want to tell you about Rosa Norales-Nunez is she got the honor after she was sworn of welcoming and introducing the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSA NORALES-NUNEZ, NEW U.S. CITIZEN: I am a little overwhelmed today by this honor and all the other attention I have received. This is my first hour as a United States citizen. I am so proud to finally be an American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: And with us right now is Seaman Nunez.

What a thrilling day this must have been for you.

NORALES-NUNEZ: Yes, it was.

TUCHMAN: How did you feel -- how did you feel (UNINTELLIGIBLE) introducing the president?

NORALES-NUNEZ: I felt excited. I felt proud. I felt happy. It was a combination of feelings.

TUCHMAN: Meanwhile, just before your introduction, which was very eloquent, I must say, you were a -- a citizen of the United States. Now, a lot of people might not understand: How does a Honduran citizen -- you're from Honduras -- serve in the U.S. military aboard a ship like this?

NORALES-NUNEZ: Because you just join in and it doesn't matter if you're a citizen or not.

TUCHMAN: OK. But what made you decide to become a U.S. citizen?

NORALES-NUNEZ: The opportunities that it offers once you're a citizen.

TUCHMAN: And the final question I'm going to ask you, how do you feel right now being a U.S. citizen? NORALES-NUNEZ: Happy, proud.

TUCHMAN: It's been quite a day for you.

NORALES-NUNEZ: Yes.

TUCHMAN: I guarantee you'll never forget this day.

NORALES-NUNEZ: Never, ever.

TUCHMAN: Is that a fair bet?

NORALES-NUNEZ: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Seaman Nunez, good luck to you.

NORALES-NUNEZ: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: Enjoy yourself on the USS John F. Kennedy.

NORALES-NUNEZ: Thanks.

TUCHMAN: And Lou, as you were saying, that fireworks spectacular begins at 9:15: 60,000 shells from 13 different platforms, five locations around Manhattan Island. They are expecting millions of people to be watching it in person and millions more on television.

Back to you.

WATERS: Bring me back a memorable snapshot, Gary Tuchman, in New York.

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