Comforting New York: A grateful city bids farewell to the military hospital that symbolized hope amidst tragedy

Hail and farewell, USNS Comfort. Thank you for being here for us.

As her great white hull sails out of New York Harbor, stand at least six feet apart and salute the men and women of the USNS Comfort, the Navy’s 892-foot-long military hospital ship that docked here exactly one month ago with plans to help New York’s strained health-care facilities handle the surge of patients needing urgent help as coronavirus infections peaked.

In the end, the ship’s 1,000 beds only administered to 181 patients, as the virus’ still unimaginably horrific toll fell short of worst-case-scenario projections, one of few mercies in this sickening season.

Even still, the Comfort gave America’s largest city, the site of the planet’s fiercest COVID-19 outbreak, reassurance that the federal government, one part of it at least, stood with us in our hour of deepest fear.

We’d been together before. On Sept. 12, 2001, barely 24 hours after our tallest towers and the people in them were pulverized by terrorists, the Comfort arrived.

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Her steaming up the Hudson past the Statue of Liberty to the West Side piers was a sign of hope, support, and yes, comfort for a shattered city.

As it was again this time. We mourn. We reel. We see dark clouds ahead. We, like the Comfort, will remain afloat.