Families honor loved ones on 50th anniversary of White Alder sinking
BATON ROUGE - Twenty-seven years after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, a tragedy hit closer to home. Five decades later, families are still remembering.
Saturday, December 7, 1968 was a day like most others aboard the Coast Guard Cutter White Alder—the vessel and its crew were on their way home to New Orleans. But as 6:30 approached, the ship collided with the steamship Helena. Minutes later, it was completely submerged.
To this day, the White Alder remains on the floor of the Mississippi River with 15 people still inside.
"I was 11 years old when this happened," Debra Kinder said. "And when I stop to think about 50 years, it's real sad to be without my father for so long."
Kinder's father was the commanding officer of the White Alder. She traveled from South Carolina for Friday's ceremony.
"I know he loved being in the Coast Guard," she said. "My father joined the Coast Guard when he was in his teens."
It was a shorter trip for Donald Campisano and his family. They came from New Orleans to honor their brother, seaman Frank Campisano III.
"I hope they're never forgotten," Donald said. "I hope they continue to do this long after we're gone."
Donald was only eight years old when the White Alder met its fateful end, but he still remembers seeing his brother hours before he died doing what he loved.
"We had meatballs and spaghetti, being an Italian family. 'Save me some, I'll be back, I'm going on that ship, I'll be back tomorrow, save me some,'" he reminisced on the last words he'd heard from his brother. He says the spaghetti stayed in the freezer for years to come.
For Donald and Debra's family, fond memories will always remain.
One of the ship's four survivors was present at Friday's ceremony.