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For a group of York County students, the arrival of the French ship Hermione represented the hard work performed on a yearlong project identifying different perspectives of the American Revolution.
For French attendees in Yorktown, the replica of the 18th-century frigate that brought Marquis de Lafayette to America in 1780 signified the strength of France’s relationship with the U.S. over 238 years.
The Yorktown Waterfront was filled with the sounds of French and English chatter over the weekend, as thousands of people came from around the U.S. and across the ocean to greet the 26-cannon replica frigate and to celebrate the centuries-long friendship between the U.S. and France.
“It’s very nice, it’s very cordial. I am very happy to be here,” said Alain Petitgas, speaking in French. Petitgas is a first-time visitor to the U.S. who lives near Rochefort, France, where the Hermione was constructed.
Christian Bickert, who serves as one of the directors of Tall Ships International, called the ship’s arrival “impressive.”
“I’ve been waiting for [the Hermione] because I think it’s a great privilege for Yorktown,” the French native said.
For the eighth grade French II students of Yorktown Middle School who looked forward to its arrival, seeing the real ship in person at Yorktown Waterfront was rewarding.
The students spent the school year gathering information on important figures from the American Revolution — including Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington and General Cornwallis — and creating a project that depicted the American Revolution from each of the players’ point of views.
“All of our work was not just for good grades, it was so other people to learn about [the Hermione,]” David Patterson said.
The exhibit, titled “Tout Est Relatif” [All is Relative], is currently on display at the Yorktown Victory Center.
“To actually see what our project is based around is really nice,” Patterson said.
Vèronique Martin, whose daughter Sophie attends Yorktown Middle School and contributed to the Hermione exhibit, said the ship was a “symbol of the long friendship” between her native country of France and the U.S.
“It’s just a fantastic experience,” she said. “It means a lot to me.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Shepperd touched on the strong relationship between France and the U.S. during the opening ceremony Friday.
“As you walk through Yorktown, you are walking in the footsteps of our nation’s first president and the many Frenchmen to whom we owe our thanks,” Shepperd said. “Today we celebrate the French that gave so much during the forming of our nation.”
Shepperd thanked the crew and captain of the Hermione and spoke of the connection between Marquis de Lafayette and General George Washington.
“While we know that the ship was built in modern times, to us and to Yorktown, it feels as though we are welcoming home an old friend,” Shepperd said.
WYDaily Reporter Marie Albiges is fluent in French.