A Navy warship, its bow made of recycled steel from the World Trade Center, glided into New York harbor this week, capping a five-day voyage from Virginia for its official commissioning.
Laden with symbolism, the $1 billion USS New York weighed in at 25,000 tons, including 7.5 tons of steels salvaged from the wreckage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Made in Louisiana, the 684-foot ship is the length of two football fields. On its bow, a crest features a phoenix rising from the towers and the words, “Never Forget.”
"It's a transformation ... from something really twisted and ugly," Rosaleen Tallon, who lost her fireman brother, Sean, in the terror attack, told The Times of London. "I'm proud that our military is using that steel."
The battleship, to be commissioned formally on Nov. 7, was originally supposed to be built before the 2001 attacks. But the Navy decided to postpone the project in order to recycle the steel from the twin towers. Not the first ship to be named New York — indeed, it is the latest in a string of “New York” warships dating back to the Revolutionary War — it was named after the Empire State at the behest of former Gov. George Pataki.
Other Navy ships commemorating the 2001 attacks include the USS Arlington, honoring victims of the Pentagon attack, and the USS Somerset, named for the county in Pennsylvania where United Airlines flight 93 crashed. In the case of the USS New York, the Navy set up a gift registry at Tiffany & Co. and asked the public to contribute to the tradition of “ship’s silver” used for diplomatic occasions.
The Navy fielded many requests to serve aboard the USS New York, whose main function will be transporting Marines around the world. (The ship is also known as a San Antonio-class amphibious dock vessel.) At last count, roughly 13 percent of the ship’s 361 crew is from New York. For many, the attack on the World Trade Center was all the incentive they needed to enlist.
Steve Cochrane, a petty officer second class in the Navy Reserve, watched the 2001 attack unfold on television and within hours was digging through rubble looking for survivors. “While on the pile, I looked around and said, ‘Never again in my backyard,’ and I started looking for jobs in the military,” he told the New York Times.
On its way into New York, the ship paused near Ground Zero for a 21-gun salute. Neil Keating, a harbor pilot, helped guide the ship through busy waters. He said he requested the assignment well in advance because his firefighter brother died when the twin towers collapsed. “Today is bittersweet,” he said.
The vessel will stay docked in New York City through Veteran’s Day, on Nov. 11. From there, it will head to Norfolk, Va., for one year of crew training and exercises.