Cole's Return Is Bittersweet For Ingalls Workers

"It's really an emotional day for us."

Two Ingalls workers stood on a perch above the shipyard and watched the Blue Marlin piggy-back the damaged USS Cole back to Pascagoula.

"It's a part of history," Ingalls worker Marshall Whittington said.  "It's a sad situation, but I wouldn't have missed the opportunity to see it come in, knowing that we built the ship, had part in building it."

"That is a crime against humanity," another worker, Shari Rohr, said.

At about 9:15 am the Cole reached the tip of Ingall's East Bank. That's where flag-waving shipyard workers got an up close look at the tarp covering the whole in the Cole's belly. For many it was an emotional scene.

"I'm just trying to figure out how they could get away with something like that," Ingalls employee J.T. Cook said.

Cook is one of the electricians who built the USS Cole. He's also on the team that will help repair the Aegis Destroyer.

"I've got a whole crew of people waiting to get on board to start rebuilding it, to put it back in service," Cook said.

That process begins next week. Ingalls will patch the hole caused by the bomb blast in Yemen, the crews will lift the Cole off the Blue Marlin, and float it in the water.

In early January, tugs will push the destroyer to a West Bank dry dock for a year of repairs. It's a $170 million restoration project.

"Today is the beginning of the first step to return the Cole the United States Navy fleet," Ingalls-Litton C.O.O. Jerry St. Pe' said.  "I mean that is the mission here. The mission is to get this ship back to the fleet in the shortest possible time. So it's a new beginning for this ship. "