TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Queen Elizabeth’s yacht sailed into Harbour Island on May 20, 1991.
Many people waited for her arrival, including then Tampa Mayor Sandy Freeman. Someone else who was there was retired Navy Captain Bob Rochford.
“She came down the stairs and she walked right past me, as we saluted and welcomed her to Tampa,” Rochford said.
Rochford was the executive officer at the Naval Reserve Center and helped plan the queen and Prince Philip’s visit to Tampa.
“It took about eight months to coordinate her visit,” Rochford said. “When we entered the channel, there were hundreds of thousands of people that just were lining this channel all the way. It was just a spectacular sight. I mean, she’s such a popular icon back then.”
Rochford stayed behind to handle more business. The queen greeted more people, shook some hands, then headed to the University of Tampa, where she received a gift and addressed the crowd.
“Thank you very much madam mayor for this marvelous present and for the very warm welcome which we have received from the people of Tampa Bay. We are delighted to be here,” Queen Elizabeth said.
Her final stop before she jetted off was at MacDill Air Force Base to knight General Norman Schwarzkopf.
Schwarzkopf was a United States Army general and commander of coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm. According to the Army, he developed the plan that helped defeat Iraqi forces in the Persian Gulf.
While her trip was brief, it’s a moment Rochford has and will never forget.
“For her to come here and to be just to be a part of the the process was pretty spectacular,” Rochford said.
The city of Tampa released several photos of the visit Thursday that showed the queen with the former mayor, along with a statement from current Mayor Jane Castor mourning the loss of “one of the world’s most iconic leaders.”
“Queen Elizabeth II made an incredible mark in our world’s history, dedicating her life to a unique and demanding role, with countless responsibilities and duties that crossed geographical boundaries and made her a universally prominent and remarkable figure,” Castor said in her statement. “Undoubtedly, her name and legacy will live through the ages. From our corner of the world, we send our deepest sympathy to the royal family, her followers and her country.”
Queen Elizabeth was put under medical supervision Thursday after doctors expressed concerns for her health. Family members traveled to be by the queen’s side in Scotland, and the Royal Family later announced the 96-year-old monarch had died peacefully.