Blasts from a bugle playing "To The Colors" and tears from sentimental sailors marked the end of the Charleston Naval Shipyard.
"To me, the shipyard isn't just docks and buildings," retired shipyard manager Robert Chevalier said during the closing ceremony in 1996. "To me, it's more like a church, it's people."
There are no more Navy ships to build in Charleston. But that won't stop the crew from getting back together.
On Saturday, an anticipated 1,200 people connected to the shipyard will come back for a reunion to celebrate their years spent at the storied base.
The shipyard, nestled along the west bank of the Cooper River, was opened in 1901 and was the site of numerous missions in its nine decades.
Workers made the massive USS Tidewater and USS Bryce Canyon destroyer tenders, taking bits of steel and turning them in to ships of war. After World War II, captured German submarines were repaired and altered on site. During the Cold War, vessels abroad in the Atlantic would make the Charleston Naval base their home port.
But on March, 15, 1996, the American flag came down. With the passage of the U.S. government's Base Realignment and Closure Act, the thousands of men and women who called the North Charleston shipyard home had to say goodbye.
"On the day of closure, I was with a group of people and the shipyard commander when we received word," Jim Beltz, a former shipyard employee, said. "It was a sad day, a day of reflection."
Beltz is one of around 30 members who got together to find as many former Navy shipyard employees as possible to bring them together.
The decision to close the Naval shipyard came in 1993. In the years leading up to the official closure, the shipyard went from 8,700 military personnel to 900. The Nicholson was the last destroyer overhaul at the shipyard. When it set sail in the Cooper River in September 1995, hundreds of jobs wavered behind it.
Beltz said many of the employees were relocated to other Navy bases or joined other ship-building companies. Many have now retired and scattered and settled across America.
By using his Navy public relations background, and with the help of other former shipyard members, Beltz has rallied members from "seven or eight" different states to attend the reunion.
This will be the first major reunion to unite Charleston Shipyard employees, Beltz said. He has a lot of memories from his time at the shipyard, from working on nuclear submarines to remembering the attitudes of his co-workers.
"To see a submarine going out, it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment," Beltz said.
The reunion is open to former Charleston Naval Shipyard employees as well as their friends and families. The gathering will be held Saturday at North Charleston's Riverfront Park; gates open at noon.
There will be a color guard provided by the North Charleston Fire Department and comments by North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.
"The people always had a sense of pride, of patriotism and of giving back to the Navy," Beltz said. "We weren't perfect all the time. But the work ethic of the shipyard employee was superior to everything. They did the best job they could."
Editor’s Note: The USS Tidewater and USS Bryce Canyon were destroyer tenders, not destroyers. The destroyer Nicholson was overhauled at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.