By Stefanie Bainum
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) – Visitors poured into the World War II destroyer all day Sunday, exploring the newly refurbished gem in the harbor from top to bottom.
The USS Laffey is back open for business. The vessel opened its doors to the public Sunday.
The World War II destroyer arrived at its current location at Patriots Point, wedged next to the Yorktown, in January.
The ship had been absent for three years, undergoing renovations and repairs—including getting a hull overhaul. The vessel known as, "the ship that would not die," was very much alive on her opening day.
"That's one of the reasons I came out here today. I knew it was brought back about a month ago, and after knowing about what happened to the Laffey I had to get inside of it," said David Frite, a Patriots Point visitor.
"I've always wondered what it would be like to be at sea on one of these ships," Frite said. "On a destroyer it had to be rough."
Patriots Point staff members say they couldn't wait another day. They decided to open the Laffey in phases in order to get people on board as soon as possible.
"This is the first phase of several, so today we got a few levels open including the barber shop, post office and pilot house," said Ashley Smith, public information officer at Patriots Point.
Visitors now get to walk the footsteps of heroes in a ship that defeated all the odds.
"These are the tools that saved our freedom. It needs to stay here forever," Frite said.
"Wow, they have a lot of courage to go on there and bravery," said 13-year-old boy scout, Caleb Hicks, who toured the USS Laffey with his troop Sunday.
By mid-April, all parts of the vessel are expected be open for public tours.
A homecoming celebration is planned for the complete opening in April, which will feature veterans who served on the ship.
To check out the USS Laffey for yourself, Patriots Point is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.